Italy Writers Rock!

Now Midge, shouldn’t that be “Italian Writers Rock?” Hmm, well it could be but then it wouldn’t be the creation of the energetic Wendy Ridolini. Wendy lives in Bisenti, Abruzzo and is committed to helping authors find their voices, get published and market their work. She is the visionary behind the September Creative Writing Retreat in Abruzzo and Sunflower Publishing which provides editorial and business publishing solutions. Her by-line as a book critic can be found in a variety of English language Italian magazines. How come I didn’t know about these magazines! Why haven’t I been subscribing to Italy Inside and Out, Abruzzissimo magazine or Lucca news.org?

Wendy Ridolini looks easy to talk to, I thought, and she was!

Wendy goes out of her way to identify authors who live in Italy and/or write stories set in Italy. Are you wondering how we met? She found me! WHAT? How can a critic and podcaster just find you? Gulp, I guess that means I am an author who lives in Italy, writes stories set in Italy and blatantly self promotes anywhere I can! One day I received an email from this women, Wendy Ridolini, I didn’t know telling me about herself. She produces the video podcast Italy Writes and was asking if she could interview me about my book Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos. Wow! I googled her and saw all she did and who she wrote for and sent back a resounding YES! The “Harriet the Spy” in me had to know why me. The easiest thing to do is just ask. So I asked Wendy how she found me. This is what she said,

“Things just appear in my Facebook feed, you just somehow popped in there. What worked for me was the title Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos. This must be a crazy woman who wrote a crazy book because it had a crazy title. I had to meet her.”

I guess all those totally silly TikTok videos and instagram posts really worked! The evening before the interview my PR pal Kathy, via FaceTime from New Jersey, made sure my room was set up, the lights were good and the large poster of my book cover was prominently placed. Being anal, I refreshed my aged brain with the answers to questions that I thought Wendy might ask and went to sleep feeling prepared. BOOM! RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! CRASH! Cripes what is happening to our house? Those were the sounds that woke me up at seven A.M. the next morning. The destruction workers that my landlord had contracted to pull down the tottering garage attached to our house and more specifically my office had started.

“TODAY!: I shrieked, “it has been months and they are starting today??” My theatre head kicked in and almost overcame my memoirist panicking head. I raced all over the house searching for a small space that didn’t rumble and tremble. Pal George in the Netherlands got the hysterical FaceTime call – “Does this room work – how does it look – &^^%#,” I said before I said hello. We settled on a small closet sized space with no electricity. The only light on my soon to be made up face was from a window. It had to do. Finish reading, then watch the video and tell me what you think.

Turn about is fair play so a week or so after that interview, I called Wendy to get more information about her writer’s workshop. I love the camaraderie of being around other writers and was trying to figure out if I could go. (Sadly, when I saw the dates I realized I was already booked on a Viking River Cruise.) The all inclusive price for the workshop was so cheap, that I have to keep my eyes open for next year. Rates are based on the room size in the lovely Casa delle Rondinelle in Bisenti, Abruzzo. The cheapest price for single occupancy is £1150 or if two people share the room £625 each. That’s $1403 and $762 dollars – for room, food transfer from the Pescara airport, workshops with super authors, yoga classes, Italian language class, one on one sessions with editor Amy Scott and more goodies.

Wendy has assembled a sterling group of authors to conduct master classes. She said, “There is nothing like talking to someone else who has been on a journey and discovering it may have taken months and years to get that book out there – and that could be inspiring”. Quoting the distinguished author Sue Morecraft, “Forty years to become an overnight success!”

Some of the featured authors include memoirist Cathy Rentzenbrink and short story author Katherine Mezzacappa – shh don’t tell – she writes under a bunch of names – including erotic fiction – then again, why shouldn’t she! Midweek, Angela Petch will do a workshop on research for a historical fiction novel. Elizabeth Buchan, who has worked both sides of the table – first for publishers and then as an author – will share her unique experience. I give up! There will be numerous guest authors in different genres. What a fabulous week and I can’t go. To find out more –

I asked Wendy for her back story. How did she get into the author business. Turns out is it the family business. She and her husband Duncan Watts moved to Abruzzo in 2009. Wendy taught English and life was lovely. Then Boom Crash snd Shake the enormous earthquake that leveled Bisenti totally destroyed their home. Her husband wrote an account about the destruction of houses during an earthquake in Bisenti. They put a caravan in the olive grove and lived there for several years. It was there Watts wrote his first book, Olives and Earthquakes.

Wattspeare, as Wendy calls Duncan, writing away in the caravan.

Wendy edited the book and got it ready to launch. Duncan loved writing so much that he kept writing, under the nome di plume – Jack Lench. Zap, Wendy was pulled into the publishing business. I love this so much and I have so much experience now on self publishing, I wanted to do this for a job! A career was launched! Things are working out, the Caravan may feel lonely because they left it behind an moved into a fabulous home.

Wendy’s next interview is with Rhys Bowen! I am soooo jealous! I’ve read everyone of Bowen’s book. Wendy will be talking to Bowen (Janet Quin-Hardin) about “the Tuscan Child” and “The Venice Sketchbook.” Can’t wait to hear that interview.

Ci Vediamo!

Midge Guerrera

PS. Speaking of authors – check out what I’ve published this past year. Plays published by Next Stage Press (a new one comes out in July) and Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos by Read Furiously. Happy reading.

Not Another Fava Bean Favorite!

Tis the season to enjoy the fava beans that miraculously appear at my door. Didn’t I just write about fava beans – anybody remember? Here in Pontelandolfo spring has more than sprung fresh produce. Gardens are lush and fava beans are growing everywhere. In two days they will disappear. That means peel them, cook them and eat them while you can. Yawn, sigh – again. I hate to yawn over free food that is full of vitamins, minerals and protein. More importantly, I’m told by local fava lovers, regularly eating fava beans may boost your immune system.

As I sat down to free the beans from a hundred pods, my cousin Carmela texted and announced that at 3:00 PM she was coming for an Aperol Spritz. She wouldn’t come alone. Yikes, aperitivo time is snack time. What do I have that could pass as a snack? Fava beans? I googled fava and found that people make spreads out of them. After reading a few recipes, I tossed my iPad aside and started experimenting. Here is my latest creation.

  1. Peel a bunch of beans.
  2. Toss them in water and boil them until the outer skin looks wrinkled. (About 5 minutes.)
  3. Burn my fingers peeling off the wrinkled outer skin. You would probably wait until they cooled.
  4. Look around for stuff to toss in the blender with them.
Notice the RED fingers.

I had a beautiful “sweet onion”, garlic and tons of spices. First thing tossed in the food processor – what you thought I’d use a mortar and pestle – was half an onion. VVVVVVVRRRRRooom, my eyes were tearing but the onion was squished. How much garlic? Jack and I believe a head of garlic is the perfect amount for any dish. Since I was only making about a cup or two of dip, I tossed in two cloves. VVVVRRRRRooom. Done. Next the fava. VVVVVRRRRRooom – what the heck? It looked like some yucky chopped up yuck. Olive oil! Of course! I added some fresh local olive oil and looked around for herbs. Salt, pepper and – I had saffron! Saffron.

It smells OK but needed something. Something? Hot pepper? No, I hate super hot stuff. Then I saw the bowl of fresh lemons on the counter. Boing – of course – that would punch it up. I squeezed in half a large lemon and gave the food processor another spin.

Did I ever admit that I am a cook who never remembers to taste what I am cooking? Well, I won’t admit it now. I put the mush in a pretty bowl, surrounded it with taralli and crostini. Divine. Hmm, I wonder what it tastes like?

Cousins Carmella, Annarita and pal Maryann showed up for Aperol Spritz and lady language. “Midge, tu hai fatto vellutata!” Vellutata? Would it be crass to look the word up before I made the drinks? My green mush was apparently something quite chic! Vellutata!

After everyone had a sip of their Spritz – or was it a glass – we dipped into the vellutate di fava. OMG – it hinted of guacamole! Maryann, who is also American, said we needed Doritos or tortilla chips. There are no tortilla chips to be found but San Carlo makes a spicy little corn horn. My green mush was delicious! What a discovery. We drank, laughed and ate all the green mush – I mean vellutate di fava.

Oh, on a practical note. Carmella told me I didn’t have to peel and cook all the fava. I should freeze some for later. No, no, I said. On line it said you had to blanch them, toss them in an ice bath and generally spend too much time in the kitchen. She shrieked with laughter. Here in Pontelandolfo, women just toss the beans still in the pods in a zip lock bag. Work out all the air and toss them in the freezer! Damn! Who knew! Just another Monday in Pontelandolfo.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Enjoying my blog – you will laugh out loud at my book!

Click Here To Visit My Publication Page.

PS: Here comes a begagraph – that is a paragraph where I beg you to do something. Something so easy it is definitely peasy. This November I would like to fill my calendar with readings of my funny memoir meets travel guide book about living in Pontelandolfo and driving. A reading of Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos would be fun for all of us. Please pitch me to your bookclub, social club, Italian American club, local bar, library or bring me in as a guest to a class. When I am in New Jersey I love being busy. I also love acting out my work. So PLEASE FIND ME GIGS!

GRAZIE MILLE

Masks Unmasked

Jack and I came home to Pontelandolfo to find a bag of scrumptious fava beans on our door step. Our neighbor, Lina, had left them for us. (You’ve heard me talk about the ever growing and traveling fava bean before. Click if you haven’t.) The beans themselves are nestled in a furry lined pod. I sat down to clean them and realized I was “unmasking” the hidden delights.

As I unmasked the raw beans, I saw each little bean as a person who had been safely ensconced and came home to me unharmed. On May 4th, we arrived in Italy from the unmasked state of New Jersey. Frankly, since Covid was still active, I never felt particularly safe with the unmasking edict. Prior to boarding our flight to Rome, I was thrilled to read that Italy still had some stringent masking travel rules in place. The FFP2 masks remain mandatory on airplanes – as well as other methods of travel. (FFP2 is similar to N95 or KN95 masks.). Every passenger on our United Flight should have read all the Covid rules and regulations.

Of course, there is always someone who doesn’t read, doesn’t care or obviously knows better and can be a pain in the butt about it. “Why do I have to put on a mask?” shrieked the woman boarding the plane a few people behind me. The United employee at the gate was very calm and tried to explain that it was a rule. The loud mouth continued screaming, “we don’t have to wear masks anymore – didn’t you get the message?”

You who know me, know what is coming. I couldn’t bear it another nanosecond and pulling my school administrator stop the riot voice of authority out of my ass turned and bellowed – “It is an Italian law. We are taking a plane to Italy and Italian law supersedes whatever it is you are talking about.” Jack grabbed my arm and pulled me forward.

I mean what is the big deal about a mask? Since we arrived in Pontelandolfo, we have been surrounded by masks. The day we got here, after a short nap – OK from noon until 7:30 PM – we tossed on some clothes and went to dinner at our favorite seafood restaurant, Sesto Senso. Everyone working there was wearing a mask. Patrons wore masks until they got beverages. Tables were more that ten feet apart. No one complained. Masks in the grocery store, masks in the pharmacy, masks at the butchers, masks anywhere groups of people were congregating and no one was bitching.

Back to the fava beans. The little pods protect the beans until they are big, strong and scrumptious. I enjoy being protected by my mask and look forward to the end of Covid and being strong and scrumptious too.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Laugh at my antics in Pontelandolfo and Southern Italy. Get a copy of my book, wherever books are sold.

Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos

Published by Read Furiously

My Slavic Secret

We have all been bombarded with the horror that Putin’s War is promulgating in the Ukraine. Schools, hospitals, apartment buildings razed by bombs. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing for their lives. This atrocity effects each and everyone of us differently. Social media is overflowing with pleas for help and personal stories.

My friend James Martin posted this on Facebook:

My family (all 4 grandparents) left the Ukraine in the early 1900s to save themselves and their offspring from the terrors we see there now. They saw in their early teens that European Countries had been fighting for Centuries over this beautiful land with an abundance of natural resources and agricultural capacity. They anticipated that the wars would continue. They missed the starvation holocaust (they were farmers also), Hitler’s aggression (he was shipping out train loads of the Ukraine black soil), and now Putin. They left behind their families but never lost touch. My parents, my sister and I, owe them everything. Ukrainians never forget 💙💛🇺🇦.” James Martin

“Ukrainians never forget.” That phrase really got to me. His words brought up a well of emotions and maybe even smacked me on the side of the head. Because, I had forgotten. Forgotten that I am fifty-percent of Slavic Descent. Being raised in Flagtown on the Guerrera compound, my Italian family was there everyday and had such a huge impact on me that I have always just said I was an Italo-Americano. The passion I felt for my Italian side masked the other DNA that was floating around. Until I read Jimmy’s piece and saw what was happening to other Slavic people. Then wham – I remembered.

One of these women is my great grandmother, Beta Skok
My maternal grandparents
Valentine Forejtek and Kristina Czerní

Borders changed so often in Eastern Europe that I am not really sure what country my grandparents came from. Was my grandfather born in Kromyerize, Bohemia or Austria-Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Slovakia? Different historic documents list different places. Family lore has it that Valentine was a multi-linguist and a great chef. Both skills served him well in WWI. He could be from wherever it was better to be from. My grandmother, who died when my mother was only nine or ten, was born in Sobotište, Slovakia or was it really Austria Hungary or Czechoslovakia. She was born in 1898 so it was probably Hungary. As Jimmy said, these European countries had been having turf wars for centuries. The resilient people, with incredible conviction maintained their heritage and homelands.

My mom and her mom.

My Slavic genes have probably provided me with my tenacity and as the Italians say, “testa dura,” hard head. I wish I had gotten to know more about that heritage. Time to fill in the other side of my family tree.

A little research and WOW.

Back to Italy. I reached out to Italian pals to see how Italians were feeling about the war and helping refugees. Gabriella Mancini, the best physical therapist in the world, lives in Milan and reports this.

ITALIAN AID TO UKRAINE IN ABSENCE OF HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS 

More than two weeks after the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Italy’s response has been impressive. Not only in the big cities but also in the smaller ones, thousands of people took action to send humanitarian aid to the population that remained and, also, to welcome the first refugees who landed on Italian territory in the best possible way. Despite the problem of inflation, rising fuel prices and the absence of humanitarian corridors – as a consequence of this conflict incited by Russia, trucks with tons of food, medecines, clothes and basic necessities departed to reach the Ukrainian border. In particular in Milan, we assisted in the creation of numerous non-profit associations, also led by priests and public figures, who have worked (and still continue to do so) to complete the mission of humanitarian aid for Ukrainian citizens and soldiers. Several collection points are scattered throughout the city. This enables every citizen to easily contribute to help people who have remained separated from their families and their belongings. In order to be able to cope with the immediate emergency of the Ukrainian people, the call on social networks is to donate as much as possible to support refugee reception facilities, hospitals and orphanages. Many pharmacies are working to collect medicines for the first aid of war wounded. There are also many Italian families who are trying to host refugee people with the hope that sooner or later this relentless horror will end. Thinking of the fact that we did not even get out of the Covid-19 emergency and we already have to face another one; it sounds really absurd and in some ways this situation could be even more serious than the pandemic. Probably the truth is that man will never learn from the mistakes of the past.” Gabriella Mancini

Archbishop Avondios, Vicar of the Archdiocese of Milan
Social Media is full of appeals.

This message raced around WhatsApp:

Stasera alle 20 suoneranno le campane delle chiese. Spegnete le luci delle vostre case finché potete, per dimostrare a Putin che preferiamo stare al buio piuttosto di comprare il suo petrolio o gas. Questa azione si farà in tutta l’Europa allo stesso momento, a Londra(alle 19), Europa Centrale(noi) alle 20, Kyiv(alle 21) e Mosca (alle 22).
Per favore inoltrare questo messaggio.

Translated: Tonight at 8 pm the church bells will ring. Turn off the lights in your homes while you can, to show Putin that we would rather stay in the dark than buy his oil or gas.This action will be done throughout Europe at the same time, in London (at 7 pm), Central Europe (us) at 8 pm, Kyiv (at 9 pm) and Moscow (at 10 pm). Please forward this message.

I don’t know if turning out the lights made Putin think again about his criminal actions but, like singing from the balconies during Covid lockdowns it makes people think a bit about what is happening.

What am I doing? Donating to Doctors Without Borders and allowing my Slavic genes to start talking to the Italian genes. It is time for me to unleash the power of both sides of the Adriatic Sea.

Ci vediamo


“Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” takes to the Road! I will be reading excerpts from this, my new book on April 21st at Cafe Brio in Hillsborough, NJ and on April 27th at Rossi’s Bar and Grill in Hamilton, NJ. Reservations a must. E-mail me for details – info@nonnasmulberrytree.com

On May 7th from 2-4pm, the talented illustrator, Janet Cantore Watson, will be representing “Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” at the Commonplace Reader in Yardley, PA. I’ll be back in Pontelandolfo with Fernando Fiat plotting more tales.

Grazie to “An Italian Dish”

Two days ago it was freezing and I dreaded walking to the car. Yesterday, the weather couldn’t make up its mind. Today, it is so hot outside that I wish some of the summer clothes that are waiting for me in Pontelandolfo were in New Jersey. The weather has been equally weird in Pontelandolfo. Snow. Sun. Sun. Snow. What season is this? These seasonal shifts have my nose running and my mouth hungry for comfort food. It seems like today’s world is tossing us weather bombs we have to skirt around. To mask or not to mask. To wear a coat, hat and gloves or turn on the air conditioner. I decided to break open a bottle of Prosecco, not look out the window and read something light and summery. Better yet, to read something full of pictures of summer fruits, vegetables and great tastes. Slowly I opened An Italian Dish Brings YouNaturally Vegetarian Summer Recipes by Ellen Shick.

Ellen Shick is a foodie after my own heart. She is an Italian American who has researched her roots, walked the paths her great grandparents walked and loves to cook. What makes her even more special is that she too finds her family tree growing in Campania.

Her blog An Italian Dish is chock full of vegetarian recipes that make my mouth water. Ellen has published a number of interesting cookbooks. They can all be found on her blog site. The photos in An Italian Dish Brings You Naturally Vegetarian Summer Recipes brought me back to summer days in Pontelandolfo. Sigh…

When Jack and I are in our little Italian village, I buy what ever fruits and vegetables are in season. The trucks carrying produce and our charming little greengrocer, il fruttivendolo, Fresh Fruits, feature local seasonal produce. There are some imports but they are from points close by like Sicily. That means in the winter you can’t get zucchini. When zucchini is everywhere, my neighbors all can or dry their extras. Yes, you can dry zucchini for the brr of winter. Zia Vittoria, our neighbor, strings it up every summer! When I get back, I should ask her how she stores it.

When we are in New Jersey, even though I know I shouldn’t, I buy vegetables that aren’t in season and grown somewhere far away. That means, in March I can make Ellen’s Marinated Zucchini! I chose this recipe because the accompanying picture just radiated summer to me. I could taste those lush red tomatoes and the bursting with goodness zucchini. Off to Whole Foods I went. I don’t mean to give such a mega corporation a plug but… the fruits and vegetables I get at the one in Princeton are always perfect. My friend Kathy tells me that is not so at the store near her.

With two pounds of zucchini in my shopping bag, I got back and put together this simple yet yummy recipe. The ingredients are: zucchini, fresh basil torn in fourths, garlic peeled and minced, the always popular extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

With my favorite Nonna knife in hand, I cut the zucchini into 1 inch chunks, put them in one of my giant pyrex bowls with a lid, added EVOO, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. The recipe said “stir well to coat every piece.” Thinking it would be exercise, I put the lid on and tossed the bowl around. As Ellen suggested, I put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. That really gave the herbs a chance to meld with the zucchini. The next day I went on to step two. Heat a large saucepan and add the zucchini and all the juices that leached out into the bowl. Sauté it uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir it and don’t forget it. Jack reminds me I often add something to the stove and race off to my computer. Suddenly, I smell burning and race back. Don’t do that. Watch the zucchini – you may have to add a splash of water to keep it from sticking. Cook the zucchini until it just begins to soften.

Now, this is the part that I had the most problem with. Do I eat it warm, juicy and divine? Or refrigerate the vegetables to have as a salad with those tomatoes that I bought? Hmm, I needed instant gratification. I ate some immediately and called it a snack. The rest I refrigerated so that I could try to copy Ellen’s fabulous photo. I couldn’t.

Photo from page 16 of “An Italian Dish Brings You Naturally Vegetarian Summer Recipes.”

Thank you to An Italian Dish for bringing a sunny day to this March madness!

Ci Vediamo.

Midge



So excited! On March 22nd, my book will be available wherever books are sold! Get it now as a presale order. Thank you so much for taking this Italian adventure with me.


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

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!

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.