Posts Tagged With: ex-pat in Italy

I Fell in Love on the Hop On, Hop Off Bus

The universe can toss you a curve ball when you least expect it. Certainly, riding a “hop on hop off” bus would be one of those places where you would least expect it. Least expect to fall in love. Least expect to find me. I’ve always striven to be the non-tourist and even thinking about riding the hop on hop off bus would give me hives.  My hip friends, Mike and Lori, insisted that I would truly enjoy it – no matter what city I was in. Well, I didn’t know if I would enjoy it but Jack and I had four hours to kill in Naples. 

Who knew the hop on hop off bus would have such an impact on my life. Maybe it was the Neapolitan songs. Maybe it was the sun shining over the bay of Naples. Maybe it was the 30 children on the upper level of the bus who were excited to be going to an art museum. Maybe it was the architecture or the feelings that the people of Naples sling at your soul.  Who can ever really tell you why you fall in love with someone or something. Love is a strange emotion.  It pieces your heart, turns your brain into mush and forces you to do things you never thought you would.  Today, I fell in love with the turbulent, bad boy city called Naples. 

Historically, I have found Naples crowded, a driving nightmare and the train station full of obnoxious faux cab drivers.  My eyes have been opened to the incredible parks, interesting neighborhoods and wealth of theaters and museums.  Tomorrow, we are going to Teatro San Carlo to see Verdi’s Il Trovatore.  Sigh…my love may deepen.

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Categories: Travel Comments | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo II

Saturday, September 3 to Saturday, September 10, 2016

Join us for the Second Session of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

The May 2016 cooking classes were a smash hit.  The Pontelandolfo women who lovingly opened their homes to American women this spring want to do it again!  They hope women from all over the world will come to love their little village.  Don’t think about it – just come and live the life of a Southern Italian.

The May video says it all better than I can –

Included Highlights:

  • Transportation from the Benevento Train Station to Pontelandolfo
  • 7 nights, single room, with television, refrigerator, morning caffè and coronetto. Five rooms in this cute B&B have private baths.  A two room suite share a bath.  Il Castello
  • Welcoming apertivo and snacks in a local bar. All the cooks will be there!
  • Sunday Pranza (lunch)
  • 5 Cooking Classes with local cooks culminating in eating with the families. Each pranza is complete with first and second courses, local wine, dessert, after dinner drink, coffee and conversation!
  • English Speaking Translator for all classes and events.  Translators in other languages can be made available for a group of 5 or more.
  • Wine and artesian food tasting at a local vintner
  • Pontelandolfo Day – open air market, tasting of locally produced products and other activities.
  • Excursion to Altilia Roman Ruins   http://www.sepino-altilia.it/
  • Walking Tour of Historical Pontelandolfo – http://www.pontelandolfo1861.it/
  • Excursion to the museums and shops of Benevento
  • Transportation to a different local restaurant each night.
  • Apron
  • Written recipes in English. (If a group is not English speaking other translations can be arranged.)

This culinary adventure is limited to 10 people.  We have a 5-person minimum.

This adventure wouldn’t happen without the commitment and support of Pontelandolfo Città Martire Associazione Culturale and il Sindaco Gianfranco Rinaldi.

Air Emirates has had some terrific sales from JFK – New York to Milan!  We booked last year two seats for $900 – $450 a piece!  Keep an eye on their sales.

Air Meridiana flies from JFK directly to Naples!  It is relatively inexpensive.

Contact me via the comments section for particulars and with any questions, thoughts or just to say hi.

Ci Vediamo!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Food - Eating In and Out! | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Alex’s Take on Aunt Midge’s World

My talented and delightful niece, Alexandra Rose Niedt, takes her Italian heritage seriously! She was the third person in our immediate family to apply for – Italian Citizenship.  (She would have been second but her mom had to get it first.) The winsome lady also has the wanderlust! Not afraid to travel alone she often pops into Pontelandolfo – when we are here and when we’re not! We had only been in town for three days, when with toothpicks holding open our travel weary eyes, we headed to the Naples airport. She glided into the airport pulling a suitcase bigger than she was and people noticed her.  The kid is a chip off the Guerrera block and carries herself with Una Bella Figura – just like her ancestors.  Shut up Auntie M!  OK, OK, here’s Alex –

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Annarita Mancini fills Alexandra in on the latest gossip.

Dear Readers,

Years ago, I started coming here to see my family, so not too much surprises me when I come to my ancestral home. Though this trip, I did notice something that took me for a slight loop that I wanted to update you all on: my Aunt Midge has become a complete local.

Now let me clarify a few things on this topic-

• I don’t know if it’s because of my roots or because of the bond I have with my family here, but I always feel somewhat like I’ve been here forever. Whether that be all of the familiar faces I see in the piazza, or the friends and family members that make me laugh entirely too hard, it’s difficult to say. All I know is that I always feel a sense of belonging.

• Midge has been spending more and more time here over the past 3 years, from 4-7 months at a time, so granted there has been time for this all to take effect.

• Being considered a local and simply feeling like one are two drastically different things.

Midge arrived back in Pontelandolfo nearly 3 days before I got to our gorgeous little village, so she’d really only had the chance to see our family, go to IKEA to buy some more furnishings for her house and drive to Naples to pick me up at the airport.  (A task which I am always grateful for, as taking the train from Naples in the evening is not on my top 10 list of things I most enjoy.) Because she hadn’t had the chance to fully settle back in to the swing of things I got to bear witness to her complete transition from “that crazy American lady that’s always writing at Bar Elimar” to “one of our own.”

I thought, as my generation is obsessed with them, I would present this to you in list form.

1) Walking through the Piazza random people come rushing over to my aunt saying “Bentornata!” (Welcome back) with hugs and kisses all around and excited conversation. This happens frequently, with people I know and also people I have never seen before. I thought I knew everyone! Dead wrong.

2) While sitting in the Piazza drinking a macchiato, a school bus full of children drives by and the kids lean out of the windows screaming “Hello!  Hello!  Hello!” to their former English teacher. I laugh for a solid minute at the ridiculous nature of little heads popping out the window in Italy shouting hello!

3) We need cheese, so I say why don’t we go to the caseificio in town? My aunt responds with “Oh no, we can’t go to him…” And follows with some story about the inner workings of the politics of the town and our family… Or was it that he sold her bad mozzarella once and she won’t go back? Same thing!

4) When we do make it to the caseificio (the one she frequents a little outside of town) after more hugs and kisses from Nadia, the long time employee, she proceeds to ask for specific cheese. Nadia on the sly tells her what is most fresh and what to stay away from today. Because you know, she’s a regular.

5) Sitting at one of the bars around 9pm Midge is about to leave when one of the women we know stops her. She asks for help making costumes for the town play “Dramma Sacro du Santa Giocondina.” Midge, being the true thespian she is, heartily agrees. This play is so important, it happens once every 4 years and is taken very seriously. Go Midge!

6) We are having a little gathering at Midge’s house the night before I leave for London, so of course we have to go to the pasticceria to buy dolce for after dinner. Upon arrival we begin to talk to the girl behind the counter, when out from the back (having recognized Midge’s voice) comes the owner Nicola, who immediately takes over our order and starts shooting the shit with us. After we’re finished he takes the treats to the register, tells the girl to give us the friends discount and waves goodbye. I mean, what a life?

I love this town, it’s home. It’s beautiful in the morning, and lights up after 10pm- literally and energetically. I hang out with the same people whenever I’m here, and have created really beautiful relationships with friends and family alike. But I’m always just visiting. Sure, I’m from here, sure I feel like a local, but I haven’t put in the time to truly deserve the right to be considered one.

My Aunt Midge has, and is now sitting back and reaping the benefits of a truly loving community. And I am forever impressed.

Questa e l’Italia- La dolce vita.

Ci vediamo la prossima volta,

Alex

(Thanks Alex, I actually cried when I read this.  I love you to pieces!  Auntie M)

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Balance

Some things you don’t take photos of. They are too real and hit a visceral button that brings on roll after roll of images.

This Tiny old brown and black birdlike woman with legs as thin as twigs was prancing down the promenade. her arms swinging, the flower print scarf hiding her hair. Balancing on her head – no a part of her – was a white plastic bag of groceries.

I cry. It has been years since my grandmother walked into her house from the yard with a basket of clothes on her head. Thats whose face I saw – Grandma – my nonna – the rock of my childhood.

Why today? What makes today different? Is it because we are leaving Pontelandolfo tomorrow?

The women were total opposites. This woman was tiny, thin and probably only 15 years older than I. The only thing she had in common with my grandma was the ability to balance.

Balance – how does one balance living half a year in one world and half in another?  Tomorrow morning, October 28, we will be heading back to the USA. The six months in Italy flew by.  I am so grounded here that I hate to leave.  This morning I made the rounds saying “Ci vediamo aprile” to so many people.  They all ask the same question – why do you leave?  I don’t really have a good answer.

Balance – I must remain connected to both worlds – no matter where I sleep that night.

Ci vediamo.

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Feeling like a Queen at Queensley Country Resort

I was staring out my dining room window this morning and thought, how magical the snow covered trees look – like the setting for a Russian love story.  Then I walked outside the door to smell the clean winter air – it’s freakin’ freezing.  Dashing back into the house I knew I had to think summer thoughts.

Winter blahs getting to you too?  Tired of snow, sleet and brr?  Take a breath – close your eyes – NO – I mean pretend you’re closing your eyes.  Imagine sitting in the bottom of a salad bowl and looking up at every color green in the spectrum. Green to the right of you. Lighter green to the left of you. Cascading greens floating down the side. That is what it feels like to be floating in the pool on a hot summer day at Queensley Country Resort in Morcone (BN).  Ahhhhhhhh.

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When one of my Pontelondolfesi pals told me about the swimming pool in Morcone, I thought they were exaggerating about how gorgeous it was. We are in the hills of Southern Italy – not on the Amalfi Coast at a swank resort. Under duress, I took a ride one afternoon to see this really “elegant” swimming hole. Yawn, could we go for gelato yet? We road around the whirly gigs of hill roads, came to a tired sign and made a left up the longish driveway. Holy Shit! How did I get to the Beverly Hills Hilton? Were we beamed up to some super chic spa in Tuscany?

No my friends you can find this ten minutes from our little village –

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Private Spots with a Great View!

Ten euros gives you a full day of feeling like a princess.  The price include a lettino – a lounge chair.  It is more to reserve the Prive Bellavista – 4 spots for 100€.  The club like resort opens from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM.  The youngsters tell me it is open at night for the restaurant, bar and general partying. In July they had a Toga Party – free admission with a DJ!  It started at 10:00 PM.  We never made it.

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My first trip was with my worldly London-living niece, Alessandra Rosaria,  she quickly grabbed up one of the brown circular lounges, globbed on the sun screen and declared she had found sunbathing heaven.  That day, not knowing what to expect, we packed our lunch and dragged bottles of water.  We noticed the more urbane folks getting incredible looking sandwiches getting delivered to them – wait – this place has a restaurant?  Yup – to eat at the restaurant one needs a reservation.

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Caffè or Campari????

To munch pool side you can order food from the “bar” – even caffè, campari soda and all the wonderful drinks that go to my italo-americana brain.  The locals tell me that the restaurant is top drawer – of course one goes for dinner at 9 or 10.  We vow to nap one day next trip and try the restaurant out.

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Elegant outdoor dining.

We did see people shedding bathing suits for dressier attire and lunching here.

Perhaps someday I’ll drag a bag with a breezy summer dress and change for lunch….  One visit, we ordered panini from the bar.  They were huge and OK but for a scant 1€ in Pontelandolfo we could have gotten the same thing to go.  We decided to buy our lunches to go for the next visits.  Still, of course, availing ourselves of the Queensely Bar.

The folks that we saw poolside were a mixture of working class woman with a day off – we met a few from a local factory, moms with their children – though the price point makes that difficult for most, Americans visiting their families and lots of gorgeous young men and women.  I particularly loved watching the gorgeous young men oiling themselves.  Whew it got hotter.

When by BFF, Janet, came to visit she instantly chatted up everyone and discovered folks I didn’t know from Pontelandolfo.  Other days I bumped into my English students and women from town.  This is the place to ward off the heat of summer and luxuriate in surroundings found in tonier towns.  I am so glad I was introduced to Queensley Country Resort.

Here is their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Queensley-Country-Resort/496928613745805

Hmmmm, summer will soon be here.  There now – don’t you feel warmer?

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Stops Along the Journey - Sites Off the Tourist Track | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

I Didn’t… Musings On Returning to the USA

Thursday morning – yikes that’s domani – we will be in Naples starting the first leg of our journey home.  For the past few days my chest has been caving further and further into my core.  Each day the depression and sadness pushes on my heart chakra.  We have been in Pontelandolfo for six months integrating further and further into village life.  Today we are closing up the house and deciding what we leave behind to languish until we  return.  Suddenly,  all the things I didn’t do starting hitting me in the face.  The list I made – what list you ask?  The list that seemed so important in New Jersey.  The list that made me feel like I wasn’t some pensioner with nothing to contribute to the world. 

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The list that made me feel vital to myself.  I didn’t complete the list

I didn’t take the autobus from Piazza Roma to Naples – just for the hell of it.  Folks say it is two hours of curvy mountain roads and worse it leaves at 7:15 AM.  The return bus leaves at 2:00 PM so what could you really do in Naples in 5 hours?  I don’t know because I didn’t take the bus.

I didn’t finish my family tree.  Armed with the latest version of Family Tree Maker and printed reports to share with family and strangers here, I added about  6 things total.  My grandmother’s side goes back to the 1600s – thanks to Antimo Albini.  ( Read that story at – http://wp.me/p3rc2m-9P)  But what of my grandfather’s side?  It was his search that I started 20 years ago and the line only goes back to 1820.  It is bis-nonno, Salvatore Guerrera’s extended family that I spend time with here.  Are there others for me to meet?  I don’t know because I didn’t contact Antimo this year to help me finish the fakakata tree.

I didn’t write a sexy romance novel based on “Divorcing Daddy”, my graduate school thesis screenplay.  Since I couldn’t figure out how to sell a screenplay and have read Nora Roberts entire canon as well as all of Janet Evanovich, I figured I could take my romantic comedy and turn it into a comedic novel.  I even started – came up with the concept and through line – and spent a day musing over the ins and out of novel writing.  I don’t know if I would be successful because I didn’t spend a second day on the project.

I didn’t seriously continue studying Italian.  Oh, I can get us fed, put gas in the car and chat with folks who speak Italian – not dialect – very slowly.  But we had car problems and I didn’t have a clue what the mechanic was saying.  I still don’t completely understand the medical system because my vocabulary ain’t there.  And, frankly, I sound like what I am – a middle aged plus American who isn’t studying everyday to improve.  I don’t know if I can get better because I didn’t hit the books daily or even watch Italian television.

Cazzo – you are probably bored with my rant.  Jack – who I hate when he is right — keeps reminding me that we are in Italy and I don’t have to accomplish shit.  Just live il dolce far niente – the sweet life of doing nothing.  My ever-loving crazy family and friends here, in London, Ecuador and in USA have reminded  me what I have indeed accomplished and suggest I buck the heck up.  Alexandra Rose, my worldly London based niece asked, “Do you realize how unique you are – how many people do you personally know who leave their home towns and live outside of America?”

Well I sputtered you, Marie and Jan, George and, and…  She had me. I bucked up.

I may not have taken the bus to Naples but did explore other parts of Italy that I hadn’t seen before.

I may not have finished the family tree but I did discover and became friends with a cousin and his wife that I hadn’t known.  I hadn’t met them before this year and truly enjoy hanging out with both Dominico and Suzi.

I may not have finished the novel but I did finish two plays – Mamma Mia La Befana and Flagtown Fem-Militia.  During September I committed myself to sending scripts to over thirty theaters and competitions.  One LA theater actually asked for the full version of Flagtown Fem-Militia after reading a ten page sample.  Please send a prayer to the theatre goddess.  (Anyone know any theaters in towns with a high concentration of Italians that would love a play based on La Befana?)

I didn’t, I coulda’, I shoulda’ – hell time to toss those words in the trash and just remember that I’ll return to my Italian home next year.  Today I made the rounds in Pontelandolfo hugging the folks that I love.  Joyfully, tomorrow I will  start hugging the family and friends that I love dearly in New Jersey.

Ci Vediamo a Presto!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Festa dell’ Accoglienza – Celebrate School!

The sun was shining and I was walking down the hill to my writer’s room – Bar Elimar. Suddenly a little blue Fiat stopped along side of me. My favorite lawyer, Rossella Mancini, rolled down her window and asked, ” Are you going to the Festa dell’ Accoglienza?” Even though, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what accoglienza meant, I hopped in the car. Hey, a festa is a festa. Rossella explained it was a program to welcome the opening of the school year and sadly she had to get to the courts in Benevento and couldn’t attend the show. Loving the Iacovella kids, I was happy to join her mom, Carmella, in the audience.

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What a Great Opening!

Google translating accoglienza I discovered it meant ” welcome – acceptance.”  What a great theme to start the school year – let us welcome the new students and accept each other!  Our local Scuola Di Infanzia Materna, Scuola di Elementary and Scuola di Media hosted the program in the village’s open air covered market. I  walked down the steep street to the market – note I never talk about walking up the hill.  The interior of the market was filled with smiling little faces dressed in their colorful grembiule – school smocks.

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Ariele Valazolo was excited!

The pink and blue grembiule of the pre-scool kids were swishing with excitement as the little tykes searched the faces of the standing audience for mamma, pappa, nonno and nonna.

A tiny little lad – about 5 years old walked to the front of the space with great aplomb and put the microphone to his mouth.  What an amazing host. Poised, he looked at the audience, smiled, welcomed all – Salutiamo tutti – and then introduced the first song.  I wanted to cheer for him! Oh wow I did!  The bopping and hopping 2.5 to 4 year olds singing their song were terrific.  Little mouths moved to the music. The three and four year olds knew every word the teeny tiny folks got every other. It was wonderful. Next up was a 4 or 5  year old girl who absolutely perfectly introduced a wickedly wild song and dance done with cheerleader style shakers by the oldest of the youngest students. I loved it. The kids were like pink and blue bolts of lighting moving and grooving to the song.

Then my mind snapped –  I could no longer ignore the constant blah, blah blah buzz around me.  I started to get frustrated and angry. Stata zitti – I wanted to scream at the young moms who insisted on gossiping during the entire song. OK, so your kid isn’t singing now does that give you permission to be a talkative asshole. Then I hear Jack’s soothing voice twirling around in my brain. It is a different culture. You don’t come from this culture. Take a breath.

Right, I’m an East Coast woman who built two performing arts high schools and would have gently wended my way through the audience and kindly pulled a talkative mom’s hair out.

Next up were the first year elementary school kids – 6 year olds . They recited an incredibly long story! Memorizing is an integral part of the curriculum. I was impressed.  The show continued with more freaking moms chatting up a bloody storm. Some one brought a baby in a pram and a gaggle of giggling moms had to ooo, ahh and chatter while the 2nd graders were reciting. That is when I couldn’t control my anger and started with my school administrator mean stare and the ugly sounding shushhh.

The show continued with each grade taking a turn at song, reciting and reading. Of course my favorites were the portions done by the kids in my extended family and the wee ones that I know.

Dear children – Keep on singing, memorizing and facing audiences. Please ignore the rude folks who are talking while you are performing. It is a life lesson in facing a tough audience. No matter what you do in life — some days there will be a tough audience.

Auguri to all the performers!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Hello” – The English Teacher

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Last year I volunteered to be lingua madre instructor in the public schools. It was a great way to fill my day, meet cute kids and insure that little voices would say “hello” when ever they passed me in the piazza or during passeggiata.  You can read about the schools and that experience by flashing back to this earlier post  http://wp.me/p3rc2m-8Y.

What I really wanted to do during this year’s time in Pontelandolfo was organize a summer theater camp – free – in English for kids. Every student here has to pass an English proficiency exam and theater is a great way to get a grip on speaking. Unfortunately, I wrote my proposal to the town in a timely manner but was remiss in getting it translated in a timely manner. Che fa! Now its translated but we’ll save the proposal for next year.  That brilliant idea thwarted by il dolce far niente, I needed a something else to keep my brain and body occupied.

Idea numero due! In July I printed up fliers that said, ” lingua madre Midge is offering free English conversation classes.” I figured maybe four people would want to hang out in a salon like atmosphere and practice speaking English. WRONG!

The first people to reach out to me was a group of four middle school girls. We talked about refreshing skills before they went back to school. Four turned into six including one adult!  What I find interesting was that their text book had them reading and writing at a really advanced level – I mean I don’t know these grammar rules. But no one can speak!  Worse, some didn’t remember the simple concepts. The schools are between a rock and a hard place – everyone has to take English but there is no money to put native English speaking teachers in the schools. Imagine if every elementary school teacher in the USA suddenly had to teach Chinese. The same type of instruction would happen – videos, worksheets and books. I had a great time with them but will admit that after a few weeks only one girl and the adult kept coming. Something about homework in the summer…

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Talk about learning on the job – Marilina from my favorite morning writing room – Bar Elimar – wanted to learn enough English to talk to tourists. Hell, I didn’t know what half of the words on the bar menu meant and thought where do I begin?  I know, I’ll play the ugly American, DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH and provide her with a variety of responses. Then I thought of every question I’ve ever had about the stuff she sells. To make it fun for media loving me, I created a power point and made sure to include pictures of her behind the bar. So the up side is I’ve had to learn all the phrases in Italian in order to insure she understood them in English. Festival season happened and she was too busy to keep coming.  But I still have the power point!

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I Cuochi Antonio e Nicola.

Then, two great young men studying to be chefs at the vocational cooking high school knocked on my door. Help, we got internships in a restaurant in England – we need to speak English!  How do we meet people?  What if no one in the kitchen speaks Italian?  Whew – who knew there were so many cooking verbs to translate.  We toured my kitchen pointing and laughing as they identified every cooking tool I had.  Now, I have cooking study guides up the wazoo.

The two adult conversation classes were the most fun. One class had two butchers, a plumber and OK I don’t remember. They didn’t speak English at all so it was really ESL. Oops, Festa season and that class ended.

The other class had an attorney, pharmacist, shop keeper and florist. They do speak English and just needed an outlet to practice. It made me not feel so stupid when they admitted they knew vocabulary but were afraid to speak.  That is exactly how I feel about Italian!  We are still reading and discussing short stories and newspaper articles. Festa season didn’t impact them. Sigh – perfect.

Guess what also happened?  Strangers not in the classes are now giggling and saying “Good Morning” when they see me sitting and writing at the bar!  What a wonderful gift.

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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