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.

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

Check out what launches October 1st!

Toss Those Zucchini in the Freezer!

Who knew?! I sure didn’t know I could slice, dice, and shred zucchini and toss it in the freezer. No hot stove and a pot of boiling water for blanching. No standing over a pot of steaming stuff with sweat pouring down my neck. All I needed was some local advice – grazie Carmella and Zia Vittoria.

The fields were laden with zucchini. In the morning the orange/yellow zucchini flowers would open to entertain the local bees. The color was almost as appealing as the yummy fried stuffed with mozzarella zucchini blossoms we have eaten all summer. Problem. How many fried zucchini blossoms could one person eat before succumbing to death by gluttany? Solution. Freeze the flowers to use with pasta, stuff a ravioli or add color and flavor to rice. Freezing the flowers took soooo much work. I don’t know if I should share the process, it may be taxing.

  • Wash blossoms – I picked them with clean hands from a chemical free garden. I just tossed them in cold water for a bit.
  • Drain and let blossoms dry thoroughly.  I actually patted the babies dry with paper towels.
  • Toss in freezer bags.
  • Put in freezer
  • Have a glass of prosecco to celebrate.

Carmella told me to make a simple pasta sauce by sautéing onion in olive oil then adding shredded zucchini and chopped zucchini blossoms. Some salt, pepper and grated pecorino cheese rounded out the dish. This was a great way to use up two zucchini and about 8 blossoms but what about the rest?

You can shred and freeze the zucchini! That is exactly what I did with about a third of my zucchini haul. Listening to the blues, I was bouncing and shredding. It went quickly. Soon the bags of shredded zucchini were in the freezer. Imagine a winter yen for zucchini bread and popping a bag out of the freezer. Brrr it is a cold December and you want to make zucchini fritters or “crab” cakes. Oh no, need to bring a quick dish to a party – zucchini frittata cut into bite sized squares.  With a smile you will remember that the prep is already done.

I have also diced zucchini to use in soups and sliced zucchini to use in – well something or other. Those too went into bags and then into the freezer.

Shredded, Sliced and Diced Zucchini

It is embarrassing to admit this. Please don’t tell anyone. We went out and bought a second refrigerator with a huge freezing compartment just so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about not using all the produce we got from Zia Vittoria. I love the freezer!

One day I went over to Zia Vittoria’s and found her in her work/canning kitchen frying up huge batches of something. I could smell the onions – who doesn’t love the smell of sautéed onions. Since the garden was also full of tomatoes, she was doing a quick sauté of onion, tomatoes and zucchini. She keeps saying “dura” hard. Then I got it. This was a flash plop in the olive oil and the vegetables were still crispy. She uses this mixture with pasta but I figure it is a quick side dish too.

I promptly went home and gathered up all the ingredients – did I mention a bunch of basil too.  As speedily as you could say “chop-chop,” I cooked up a fast batch. When I would rather write than cook or rather have cocktail hour than cook – all I need to do is grab a bag. I freeze in tiny sandwich size bags that I thrust inside a big freezer bag – it really is just grab and go.


We are blessed to live in a place that is rich in fresh produce and friendly neighbors who love to share with us.  I hope you are having a safe, healthy and farm to table summer! (Local farmers rock!)

Ci Vediamo

Midge

PS.  Great news to share – I just got a publishing contract with Read Furiously for my new collection of Pontelandolfo centered short stories.  “Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” will be out in 2020.  Don’t fret – you all will be the first to know!

Bentornati! Welcome Back!

Pontelandolfo – our favorite place.

The hills were alive with the sounds of music!  Just not the song you are thinking of.  For the past few days, our village has serenaded us with the sounds of welcome, love and joy featuring that musical word that means so much – bentornati!  Bentornati is the melodious way to say welcome back – but really more than just welcome back.  I am so happy to see you!  We are glad you are back!

We are glad to be back in pontelandolfo!

After our quarantine period was over, Jack and I donned our masks and made our way down to Pontelandolfo’s village center.  It was the first time we had been to the piazza since covid shut us down and trapped us so very far away.  Wow!  So many changes!  The weekly market wasn’t in Piazza Roma – but we could see the vendors trucks behind the school in Piazza Its Been So Long I don’t Remember the Name.  Look, I shouted, a new outdoor bar is open on the promenade.  What a great place for a quick pick me up during the pre-dinner passegiata or after dinner night out.  All of the bars have a much bigger outdoor presence. Newer tables, umbrellas – wow – so urbane!  Those changes were brought about because outdoor seating was the only way the bars could eke out a living during the height of the pandemic.

We continued to drive around and noted that everyone was wearing a mask.  Shoppers were carrying their bags of goodies and wearing masks.  Venders were wearing masks. Bar staff were all masked up.  We parked the car, put on our masks and got hit with the welcoming sounds of Bentornati!   

Bentornati from the owner and customers at Bar Elimar.  Bentornati and conversation with a man we barely know who told us to sit in the shade with him.  Bentornati and fist bumps from people we knew and passed in the streets.  Bentornati and invitations to come over for coffee from folks we haven’t seen in pandemic ages.  Bentornati and tell us everything you have been doing – from the pharmacists.  Bentornati, from the staff at the grocery store.  Bentornati and what vaccines did you get – from the florist. People knocked on our car window to say Bentornati!  Bentornati and come for dinner – an invitation we promptly accepted.

This simple welcome back phrase made us feel immediately right at home.  We felt surrounded by the affection and friendship that one is blessed to feel in a small town.  Bentornati, ci siete mancato.  Welcome back we missed you.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo is organizing adventures for 2022! Cook, explore, taste, create and live like a Southern Italian

Quarantine Angst

Quarantine day 8 – I didn’t kill Jack yet.

At least I’m not wearing an ankle monitor! How do Jack and I manage not to kill each other during our latest quarantine in Pontelandolfo? He reads, feeds the chickens and stares at the mountain. I ramble up and down the stairs of our chilly stone house, cook, stare at the mountain and remind myself it is only for ten days. Lets back up a wee bit. How did we get here? Why are we quarantining when tourists from the USA can take quarantine free flights?

After dealing with health issues and the Covid Crisis for what seemed like an eternity in New Jersey, we finally felt secure enough to travel back to our Pontelandolfo home. I knew I didn’t want to visit more than one airport and risk seething at wackadoos who refuse to wear masks in crowded spaces. That meant finding a flight directly to Rome and ordering a car service to drive us from one region to another. Finding the flight was easy. We bought tickets on United from Newark to Rome. Their website was incredibly helpful as were the reminder emails to do everything on the pre-boarding list. Besides the usual chaos promulgated by the TSA, everything at Newark Airport went smoothly. The mask mandate was followed by our fellow travelers. This brought joy to Jack since he wouldn’t be embarrassed by me giving the evil eye and a tongue lashing to anyone who was non-compliant. People were courteous and spatially conscious. Here is a look at that pre-boarding list –

Vaccines? Check – we both had our two doses of Moderna. They didn’t ask to see them but we had our cards ready. Actually, we provided the data in advance to United and the EU-PLF.

EU-PLF? Check – sounds like peeeyyuuuu stinky feet but it is the Passenger Locator Form that you have to keep on you. Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs) are digital and will help public health authorities do contact tracing. That means if someone on my flight had some infectious disease, the European Union/Italy could find me. The idea is to prevent the spread of disease. In Newark they just wanted to see the piece of paper with the bar code but no one scanned it. When we got to Rome no one scanned it either. I’ll keep the bar code in my wallet with the vaccine card.

Covid-19 Test 48 Hours Before Landing Check – for $85 each we got our noses swabbed the afternoon before we left. I carried our negative test results and a United representative barely glanced at them.

Digital Health Pass ReservationCheck – we made appointments to get our noses tickled again by a doctor administrating a covid swab test in Rome. In Rome’s Fiumincino Airport this was really well organized and it only cost € 20 each. Why did it cost so much more in New Jersey? We were swabbed, waited about twenty minutes and given a certificate of a negative test. Hmm – what happens if the test is positive? I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

Self-Declaration Form for Travel to Italy From Abroad Check. Double Check and Tripple Check. I completed this form in English and in Italian. It states that I am not a denier – I get that there is Covid -19 and haven’t tested positive, took the swab test, will take a swab test in Rome, will self isolate and where you can find me climbing the walls during self isolation. NO ONE took the form! United staff glanced at it. On the plane they gave us another one to fill out. NO ONE took that form either. I tried to give it to the car service driver. He didn’t want it. I thought maybe Pontelandolfo wanted it. They wanted something different…

After going through Border Control, we went out front and found our driver. He waived a sign with our names on it, helped lug the luggage and made us comfortable in his clean Mercedes sedan. Anybody need a lift from Rome – www.autonoleggiocerrato.it! In a three hour super highway and winding hill road journey, we made it back to Pontelandolfo. Our masked family and friends who are like family, were waving at us from the other side of the street. Think parade of one car with social distancing. When we got in the house, our cupboard and refrigerator were both jammed packed with fresh vegetables, meat and the cheeses you can only get in the Sannio hills. Wine from the local vintner was peeking at us from a shelf. Thank you! Grazie a tutti!

We settled in, I couldn’t wait to go see the piazza! What, we can’t go see the piazza? Jack looked at me – “quarantine remember.” But we took the covid quarantine free plane? “Tough – the village expects it.”

It has been eight days. Only eight days. Soon it will be ten days. Quarantining is the right thing to do. We care too much about this village to be the bearers of evil infectious yuck. Besides, quarantining isn’t so bad when you have a view like this.

Ci vediamo!

Midge

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

Midge Guerrera

August Flashbacks

How did September get here?  What happened to August?  The pandemic – duh – no wonder I have no stories to tell of the annual August festa. Remember the year I tried to write about each of the seven events and slept through the last two? August in Pontelandolfo is usually jam-packed with concerts, art exhibits, processions, remembrance celebrations, Feragosto picnics and house parties. Pontelandolfesi from all over the world return home to eat, drink and reminisce with family seen only once every few years. This year, thanks to the pandemic, the monthlong whirlwind didn’t happen.

No stage was set up in Piazza Roma. 

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Performing artists weren’t  contracted or were cancelled.

Ri Ualanegli, our internationally acclaimed folk dance company, didn’t host a 2020 dance festival.

What did happen in August?  Gardens were tended.  Crops harvested.  Produce canned. Bars opened. Cards were shuffled. People strolled the piazza. Families ate, drank and enjoyed each other.  Trekking, forest foraging and picnics took place in the mountain.  Beaches were visited.  Kids started thinking about school starting on September 14th. Some folks did the usual August thing and went on vacations. Returning vacationers caused a surge in Covid-19 cases.  

Not again…

Pontelandolfo is a microcosm of good health.  During the pandemic, there has only been one case of Covid.  Perhaps it is the mountain air and great wine.  I will start thinking about next August and what a joy the annual festa will be.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo.  Booking 2021.