When life hands you lemons – or the Pandemic closes your hotel – make lemonade. NOT. The ever creative and entrepreneurial owners of our favorite Milanese B&B, Il Girasole Milano, Nicola and Matteo Negruzzi understood that people around the world were feeling crappy. Hmmm…. In case you didn’t know, the name of their wine that grew out of the Pandemic is a vulgar Italian idiomatic expression – essentially meaning “fuck off” or “up your butt.” It is also a wine that sold rapidly during the two plus years that Covid had as all feeling – well – gulp – fucked and continues to sell today.
Nicola Negruzzi told me the story –
It was the end of November, 2020 and they got a call from a very good friend who was having a very bad year. A disabled child, the pandemic, Milan closed up tight and – well you went through it and you understand. At the end of the call, she said to Nicola, “you don’t know how many vaffanculos I have to say a day.” To make her laugh, Nicola designed a label for a sparkling Trebbiano wine from Abruzzo. He took a picture, sent it to her and said, “Come here, we drink this wine and say vaffanculo together.” It was just a joke – join the rest of us and raise a glass while screaming “vaffanculo!” Their friend not only laughed, she ordered a case. Nicola and Matteo realized they might be on to something that could save their souls. They asked a friend to design a professional label, ordered a bunch of wine from a vineyard in Abruzzo, attached wooden baskets to their bicycles and started creating an old fashioned huckster promotional buzz. They pedaled around Milan looking for groups of masked up, glum looking people. Imagine the surprise and cheers when two men carrying bottles of Vaffanculo Wine, stopped and offered glasses accompanied by the very cheerful, but vulgar, toast. The wine took off like rockets. The timing, creativity and energy of the brothers is a marketing case study.
Taking the project even further, they got the permits to turn their empty hotel into a bar open just for apertivo. Matteo took mixology courses and started creating signature drinks. Together they created a menu of interesting stuzzichini, canapès.
They papered the neighborhood with fliers announcing the opening of “The Garden.” I was shocked when we came to the B&B to see their old parking lot festooned with trees and shrubs in enormous pots. They created spatial social distancing islands of tables surrounded by plants.
From 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM locals visit the Garden to snack, gossip and drink. The featured wine – Vaffanculo. Imagine someone coming to the bar for the first time hearing customers shout, “Matteo, Vaffanculo per due.”
Yes, I did. You know I did. I bought a case and shipped it home to Pontelandolfo.
Here is some exciting Midge News! I was a featured guest on the theatre podcast, OnStage, OffStage. Interviewed by George Sapio, I had a great time. Actually, when I heard it for the first time, I cried. I sounded like a real writer! Who knew that my pandemic lemonade would be getting a book and five plays published! Listen to the podcast and hear all about it.
Sigh… Midge and Jack succumbed to the evil Covid. Beh. Cough, cough, sneeze, sneeze. Now, no need to feel sorry for us. I truly enjoyed laying on the couch for seven days and binge watching Tehran on Apple TV. Sleeping until noon wasn’t so bad either. We are both finally rejoining the living, but won’t be leaving the house until we take a second Tampone Nasofaringeo Covid test.
How did we get it you ask? Well, we went on vacation. I know, I know, being retired and living in Italy is like one long vacation. Think of this as a vacation from vacationing. Or as my pal Marjorie put it, “You staycation all year and this is your going away vacation.” We had booked a Viking River Cruise that would glide us along the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel Switzerland. Amsterdam – damp, cold rainy Amsterdam. I know the exact second and place in Amsterdam that I gobbled up a bunch of Covid flying germs. The – they really need new administrators – Ann Frank House was the place. We had reserved time slots to visit the Ann Frank House. It was raining. There was a freakin’ long queue outside the Museum/House. We were soaking wet. My mask was soaking wet. My brain was soaking wet and wanted to ring dry whoever the programming administrator at the museum was that over booked time slots. Excuse me, the place is small and you sold enough timed tickets to fill the coliseum. We squeezed into the place – masked – and really enjoyed the museum portion of the exhibition. As we climbed the steep cramped stairs to the upper levels, I started to panic. They can’t be putting all these people into smaller and smaller spaces. Oh yes, they could. I pulled my mask down only once – to breathe after climbing a flight of stairs. Only for two minutes. That was all it took for the evil flying vermin to pounce on my lungs. Have I mentioned that masks were not required. I saw about 4 out of the crush of people wearing masks. (I do not know if what you just read is true. I cannot confirm or deny this is the place I caught Covid. The above paragraph was based on my Italian woo woo insights.)
We spent two more rainy masked days in Amsterdam before hitting the river. The Viking “longboat” only had about 160 passengers. We never sat with other people. Didn’t go to the main crowded dining room and were definitely cautious. Views along the river were great. Food and booze were great. Laughing with Sue and Phil, the couple we went with was great.
ALERT, ALERT, RING, DING, SIREN OOOOO. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, “Based on systematic reviews and meta-analyses in studies investigating infections with ancestral strains of SARS-CoV-2, the incubation period of COVID-19 is, on average, five to six days, with most studies reporting a range of two to 14 days.” I woke up on day 4 of the cruise and went right back to bed. (Notice how average I am – six bleeding days it took for the nasties to turn me into yuck.). I didn’t even think about Covid. Having had two severe cases of Lyme disease, I thought I was having a Lyme reoccurrence. My muscles didn’t want to work and I was incredibly weak. Blah, blah, blah, you don’t need to hear the whole gruesome story. Anyway, I only thought about Covid when I started coughing. That was in the airport flying back to Naples. I double masked and hoped for the best.
Back in Pontelandolfo, we immediately went to the pharmacy and got tested. We both tested positive for covid. What? How could Jack be positive? He doesn’t even have a sneeze happening. Pharmacist, Marco Perone, entered us into the system and printed out our, YOU BETTER QUARANTINE FOR A MINIMUM OF 5 DAYS OR GET A TIME OUT, certificates. Hiding our faces from the world we rushed home. Yes, once in the system the local police can really check on you. Besides that, we didn’t want anyone we knew – which is the whole village – getting sick.
We had been away from home for about 12 days. The refrigerator was empty. We looked at each other. Jack sighed. I had a coughing fit, recovered and went into “feed us please” action. The snarky readers out there will read what follows, guffaw and think, you can easily order food in New Jersey too. Supermarkets deliver. Restaurants deliver. Getting delivery is no big deal. Hey snarky – Do they also think for you????
My first text was to Luigi, co- owner of Mini Market La Torre. Think well stocked deli. My list was eggs, milk, bread, water, lunchmeat and wine and whine – I couldn’t think. Lunchmeat – they know us. They know I buy 200 grams each of mortadella, tacchino, e prosciutto motto. I didn’t have to think. Luigi tossed other stuff we would need in the bag. I snuck out side and put a Tupperware container with a bunch of money in it on our outdoor table. He left his store, ran over and put the bag of goodies on the table. Then he routed around the Tupperware and took what it cost.
Vegetables. We need vegetables. Fresh, green and full of antioxidants too. Text number two went to Nicole, owner of Fresh Fruit. Nicole gets up most mornings at 4:00 AM and heads to the fruit and vegetable farmer’s market near Naples. My text to her was briefer – green vegetables, fruit, onions and ???. She too appeared with a bag stuffed with green, yellow and I don’t remember fresh stuff. Nicole exchanged a receipt for cash in the Tupperware box.
Watching her, I started giggling. For years, I would go to farms, put money in a box and take eggs or produce. This is kind of a reverse honor system. Leave money in the box for someone to take and they leave you stuff.
How could we go a week without meat from Marcelleria Mancini? To butcher extraordinary, Stefano, my text was steak, chopped meat, chicken and some kind of interesting cheese. We ugly Americans eat more meat than we should. His other customers get one chicken breast thin sliced into cutlets for ten people. He knew better and two giant chicken legs and breasts arrived. With all the garlic and onions from Nicole, chicken soup was happening. He cut us two thick and scrumptious steaks. Enough for two meals. The cheese was a creamy and yummy caciocavallo – you know horse’s balls – from a local caseificio – cheese maker. Stefano didn’t rummage in the Tupperware box. He had stapled a bill to the bag and said pay me when you are better.
Pay me when you are better??? Would ShopRite at Home say “pay me when you are better?”
Speaking of texts. I texted our primary care physician, Doctor Palumbo. He replied instantly with what meds we needed to buy and what we should be doing. The first person to pick up meds for us was Nicola, our good friend and neighbor. A few days later I texted Dr. Palumbo again – I was worried about Jack’s oxygen saturation. More meds and a new text to my precious cousin Carmella. Vroom she was off and running to the Pharmacy. Yeah, yeah, CVS delivers but does the pharmacist call you and say, ” How are you two? Call if you need us.”
Since I didn’t want folks here to think we were ignoring them, I posted on FaceBook that we were Covid positive and in quarantine. Folks had not only wished us well via replies on my FaceBook post but hit other electric highways as well. I was too tired to answer my phone but I did look at the messages. Many of them came from my Pontelandolfo neighbors. “Call if you need anything.” “Can I do anything.” Those thoughts were said a variety of ways with funny or serious emojis. Those messages kept our spirits up. Thanks Carmella via Michelle for getting us that much yearned for loaf of bread! Thank you to Jersey Girl Kathy for daily checking on us too.
For the past ten years I have touted the joys and love we find in our small Southern Italian village. Pontelandolfo may not have Grubhub, Doordash or Uber Eats but damn, it has love. Lots of love. Grazie mille a tutti.
Midge PS. So excited! I will soon be in NJ and PA doing readings from my book, Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos! Come laugh with me!
I’ve often said, one of the advantages to living in Pontelandolfo is that we can hop around fairly inexpensively to visit other European cities. During one rainy week, four of us hopped over to Amsterdamfor a taxing good/bad time.
Like foxes sniffing for prey – taxi drivers roam the streets of Amsterdam looking for wet and bedraggled tourists to gouge. When we landed, the fox phone chain must have been rattling. The foxes didn’t have far to look for new soggy chickens to fleece! Our happy or maybe crazy foursome went out in wind, rain and hail. Ten minutes after leaving point A to get to point B, we looked like dripping shaggy dogs. The foxes pounced-
“Growl, there are four good ones,” drooled the first driver we met. “The white haired guy looks old and about to faint. Errrr, and look at that chubby momma flagging me down. She can barely waddle in the rain. The other two, with hair plastered down, look ready to cry. Hee, hee hee. Yumm.”
It was pouring when we left Amsterdam’s Ann Frank Museum. My little party of four was soaked and starting to wrinkle. Sadly, I didn’t see the driver’s drool and flagged the fox’s cab. It stopped. We started to get in and told him the name of our hotel.
€30, he snickered.
What???!!! We had paid the cab to get to the museum only €17. He looked at me. I looked at him. Susi, my friend sputtered, that isn’t just. We all looked at the rain, and sunk into our seats. No tip was getting into his greedy little paws.
After that scurrilous experience you would think we would have learned something. Noooo! We took a fun, yet rain and hail filled, canal boat tour. Seriously, the rain and hail made me feel like a native. We were toasty dry on the boat and laughing at the sounds above us. Then we got off the boat. Merde. It took thirty seconds for the rain to fill our shoes, pockets, hair and drench our coats. We clambered up the metal stairs to the dock and headed for the street. Susi raced ahead and starting talking to a cab drive. We all piled in. The hotel was about eight blocks away. We could see it. If we were nimble youths we would have run. We aren’t nimble or young. We asked the driver if he was going to use the meter.
It’s raining – you want a ride – €30.
Not a sputter came out of our blue and freezing lips. We paid the €30. It must be the official rain on tourists price.
I noted the similarity between the fair and honest taxi drivers of Naples and the fair and honest taxi drivers of Amsterdam. The honest folks clicked on their meters. The price gougers didn’t. The honest ones played by all the rules. Once, the four of us attempted to jump the cab line to enter the second and bigger vehicle in the cue. The noble driver of the second car wouldn’t accept us as customers and sent us back to the first car. Whoever was first in line was to be our driver – no matter how tight a fit it was for four people.
The foxes are always ready to take a bite out of your wallet. In Amsterdam, the unmetered prices versus metered prices fluctuated between thirty to fifty percent more. Some times even the metered fairs varied coming and going too. How could that be, we would bellow. Then one of us would point out that we seemed to have driven in a circle two or three times.
Hmm, has that ever happened in Naples? Until we knew better, Jack and I had been fleeced from the Naples train station to our hotel in the center of town. A tourist, or person who looks like a tourist, needs to beware. Drivers have said things like, your suitcase is big – that costs more. There is a special charge for blah blah blah. Look at the posted price sheets. There should be posted fixed prices in every cab. Amsterdam didn’t seem to have prices posted. Actually, they didn’t have cab licenses posted in the cars either. One time, after we got in, the driver took the sign that said taxi off his roof and tossed in on the front seat floor. He didn’t use the meter either. He had lots of reasons.
One way streets. Construction. Rain. I can tell you about the city. Beh.
Reading that, I began to understand why some drivers took the longest routes. I also read that you didn’t have to tip the drivers – except maybe the change. Sadly, not wanting to be ugly tourists we asked our first driver what the tipping standards in the Netherlands were. He said 10-15% but not mandatory. Duhhhhh. Silly girl, next time I should reasearch before we go anywhere. But why should I have to? Why can’t every driver be like the fair and honest drivers? Sigh…
Happy traveling! Enjoy every voyage – even if it rains.
As soon as we got out of our pal Jeff’s car, the succulent scent of slowly cooked cinghiali, wild boar, wafted over us. At 8:20 PM, Jeff, Marianne, Jack and I headed down the hill toward Pontelandolfo’s covered market. Since nothing here has ever started on time – ever – we were surprised to hear music playing and see everything organized and ready to go early! Sponsored by La Squadra Cinghiale Lido, wild boar hunting club, this was the best organized food centered event that I have ever attended in our little village. No, I mean, the best organized event ever! The club members thought of everything – starting with arrows and signs letting you know just where the event was. For years, I have whined about the lack of audience or tourist considerations. This group rocks and understood how to help everyone enjoy the night.
We got down to the covered market and joined the line to enter. The line flowed like a fast moving stream. We paid our €10 each, got a ticket and were whisked along. (Signage let us know exactly what to expect.)
A tray was placed in front of us, first stop – wine! That glass of full bodied red would be perfect with cinghiale. (You could also buy a bottle.) The tray slid down the counter and a club member filled a bowl with cavateli smothered in sauce teaming with chunks of boar. He pushed the tray on to the next station. A local hard roll – wrapped in plastic so no sticky fingers touched it – landed on the tray. Next stop, a scoop of cinghiale slowly braised with onions and garlic filled a tray cutout. That must be enough for ten bucks right? Nope. The final cutout on the tray was for an enormous scoop of cinghiale that tasted like it had marinated in wine and was slowly cooked with tomatoes and herbs. OMG it was ottimo, the best.
My neighbors – Nunzia and Amadeo – waved us over and created spots for us. The place was already full and tables had reserved signs. I had a chance to look around and appreciate the transformation the market space had undergone. Cafeterias style tables were set up and covered in yellow table clothes. Lots of them had reserved signs. I was happy that Nunzia called us over. The club had fashioned the cassa – place you pay – assembly line and enclosed kitchen at one end of the enormous space. The other side of the open space was the realm of Gabrielle Palladino, Pontelandolfo’s true renaissance man. He is an accomplished author of numerous books, a singer and theatre professional. He is also works in city hall. As they chowed down, the music he played and sang entertained the crowd.
The food was “to die for” and the convivial surroundings made the evening a spectacular success. After we finished eating, we didn’t want to leave. But the long line of hungry people waiting to come in, made me realize we should let them turn the table. The efficient volunteers had been coming around and bussing tables around us. What shall we do? Grab a bottle of wine and dance the night away!
The hunting club is housed in the old village nursery school. They get it for very little rent or free but maintain it and pay all the bills. La Squadra Cinghiale Lido is an asset to the village. Wild boars are really destructive and seem to multiply like rabbits. They have even taken over streets in Rome. My fantasy is that the organization also form a cooperative and get licensed to hunt beyond the season and sell the meat. I would be the first in line. Grazie La Squadra Cinghiale Lido for a perfect Pontelandolfo evening.
Every year on September 12th, I remember where I was the day before. To deal with my own sadness, fears and sense of loss, I started writing a play. The play I wrote, Email: 9/12 was based on the emails I received from friends and family around the world. It tells the story of 9/11 from very personal perspectives. It hit me today that the youngest members of my extended family weren’t even born when the Twin Towers went down. I’ve shared my play with them. The play would be a wonderful component for any social studies or history class and a catalyst for discussion. It is published by Next Stage Press.
Fernando Fiat loves an adventure as much as any other Fiat. (Those of you who have read Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos have tracked his journeys.) The other morning I got up, looked at Fernando, shuddered and screamed “Where have you been?” The car was covered in sand! Did it take me on the quick trip to a beach on the Adriatic? Had it accompanied me to the neighboring village’s Beach Volleyball tournament? No! The 500 XL shuddered a bit and looked at me with “do you still love me“ headlight eyes.
Then it hit me – like a dune in the eye. Morocco! The high flying Sahara sands had covered my poor Fernando and he/she never got to enjoy Morocco. Seriously, there were no gifts on the back seat from open air bazaars, fabulous food containers were not perched on the back seat and make my tummy dance music was not playing on the radio. There was just sand. Years ago Mario, my cousin Carmella’s husband had explained the Moroccan connection. Being a testa dura, I had put the story away as folklore. Bo, it isn’t lore! Look at Fernando!
Everyone here knows about the sand. Everyone but me believes it comes from Morocco. I did what any baby boomer would do, I googled it. There are websites dedicated to the flow of the Sahara sand from Africa to Europe, the Caribbean and even the United States! Even NASA follows sand storms! NASA, seems to like the sand, and alerts us to this hurricane factoid – hurricanes hate flying sand! More sand means fewer hurricanes.
Dust plays a major role in Earth’s climate and biological systems. Since it is rich with iron and other minerals that plants and phytoplankton need, it provides natural fertilizer for ecosystems when it lands downwind. The airborne particles also absorb and reflect sunlight—altering the amount of solar energy reaching the planet’s surface. Dust can also promote or reduce cloud and storm formation, depending on other atmospheric conditions.
According to that same NASA article. Dust sounds like a good thing.
Living in Southern Italy I learn something new every day! Usually, it is about preserving a healthy harvest. I never thought that the unwashed Fernando Fiat could help me understand that sand, a simple grain, can have such a global impact.
“Hit the road Midge and don’t ya come back no more, no more.” I have been persecuting Jack and my PR pal George by bellowing out those lyrics whenever I talk about setting up an East Coast USA reading tour for my book about life in Italy, Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos. George lives in the Netherlands and has been pimping me off to bookstores, Italian Clubs, women’s clubs and just about anyone he can think of. Jack, just raised an eyebrow at “pimping.” Hey, that is a PR vocabulary word – isn’t it? I will be in New Jersey for six months beginning in November and George has me hitting the road. I love the theatre of it all. At first, I wanted to do a November reading tour – a gig a day for 30 days. Jack explained that I might need to spend the whole day after a reading, sipping wine and being social sleeping.
What! I cried. I’ve done two shows a day for six days. Reading for an hour and schmoozing is a piece of cake.
How old were you when you did two shows a day?
Well – oh – ugggg.
One show, I mean reading, a day with a minimum of one day off in-between is now the plan. Except for the first week. Jack hadn’t made up the well thought out though yucky rule yet and we have bookings.
Janet Cantore Watson, the books illustrator, has already started taking her artistic show on the road. During the spring she did a signing at Commonplace Reader Bookstore in Yardly, PA. Before that, together we did a reading at Cafe Brio in Hillsborough and Rossi’s Restuarant and Bar in Hamilton. (We love all types of venues.) This past week Janet did one show a day for three days at the Somerset County 4-H Fair. (I did tell Jack that if Janet could do it so could I. He pointed out the age difference. The creep.) She came up with a great concept. She reads a story from Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos and then has the audience create illustrations for that tale. Clever, creative and encourages listening. Check out the video –
Janet is an amazing woman and puts fun into everything she does. We have gotten lots of positive feedback from her workshops. Sadly, I can’t draw a stick figure so I need to stick to entertaining. Here are the gigs I have so far. If you want more information email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 9 – Newtown Bookshop in Newtown, PA. 6:30PM
November 10 – Frenchtown Bookstore in Frenchtown, NJ. 7:00 PM
November 11 – Unico District X Kenilworth in Kenilworth, NJ 2:00 PM (Reservations please)
November 16 – Women’s Group of the Pontelandolfo Club. Waterbury, CT 6:30 PM
December 4 – Booked on Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA. 4:00 PM
December 13 – Horizons at Woodland Second Tuesday Book Club Lakewood, NJ
Let Me Entertain You! If I am not doing something creative and fun, I will be bored silly. During my six months in New Jersey, if you find me places to read, you will be keeping me sane. I will be forever grateful and Jack will thank you because I will not be driving him pazzo. I’m free, funny and won’t embarrass you – well maybe a little. Seriously, I would love to come and share stories from Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos (this is the international link) with your club, organization, condo complex etc. Just contact me and I’ll put it in the calendar.
Time to head down to Bar Elimar and have a Compari Spritz and people watch. Thanks for always being there for me.
” Why, I just put one foot in front of the other and keep on smiling.”
“No, but really what do you do? I mean it’s not like a vacation, or is it like a super long vacation? What do you do every day?”
Hmm, what do I do on a typical day in Pontelandolfo. Let’s take today. Just what did I do today. First I carried the laundry bag down the stairs, separated the lights and darks and then I did a load of wash. I used to wash our clothes by hand – no really – the first year we lived here every single day I would wash what was dirty from the day before an hang it outside to dry. I felt like I was part of village life. After that early morning chore, I would walk to Piazza Roma and see laundry flopping in the breeze all over town. Of course, that worked amazingly well when we were here in the summer. One Christmas, my sheets froze on the line. My fingers froze getting the frozen sheets. The dining room was draped in damp sheets. The dryer was delivered the next day. But today, the sun is shining and it is going to be hot, so just like all over Italy, the clothes are happily hung on the line. Here is breezy example.
Next stop, Piazza Roma for a cappuccino and a visit to Dr. Palumbo. Nothing tragic, I just needed a prescription refilled. A prescription that will cost me next to nothing in a copay. Seeing our primary care doc meant climbing the three flights to his office. I consider it exercise. Huffing and puffing as I entered the waiting room, I wheezed out, Buon giorno, Chi è l’ultimo? The person who is last in the cue raised a broken wrist. I sat down, caught my breath and then as I waited my turn, caught up with local gossip . After arriving sans an appointment – no one makes an appointment – I waited less than I wait to see my primary NJ doc. Hello Margarettttt, smiles Dr. Polumbo. Yup, without a nurse putting a file in a pocket with my name on it he knows who I am. He prints out the script, I say grazie and I’m off.
Down the steps and across the piazza to Farmacia Perone to fill my meds. That is always a pleasure. The entire family of pharmacists always seem to be smiling, offer a little chit chat, at laugh at my reaction to the low low prices. I grab my drugs, say ciao, buona giornata, and I’m off.
A quick dash into the Ferramenta where hardware store owner Nicola smiless broadly as he says Buon Giorno Midge. Of course I immediately forget how to say low energy fluorescent lightbulb. We both laugh and he points to the ligtbulb display. I get one and raced back to Bar Elimar for Jack who is now on his forth espresso.
Home for a quick change into a bathing suit and pool wear. We were off to spend the day at Queensley Country Resort. This place is a scant 10 minutes from our house and always makes me feel like my book Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos was picked up by HBO and I’m in LA. (Did you see how I just slid that plug in?). It is a truly glamorous place. Today, I swam laps in my not glamorous black tank suit. Everyone else was in a bikini. Everyone else was LA thin. After lunch, yes they serve lunch with real flatware. You can order a glass of wine and sit at a cloth covered table. Jack had his usual Caprese Salad and I had an l’insalatatone – big green salad with tuna. Don’t shrug your shoulders and sigh – you wanted to know what a typical day was like. This was my day.
Though there was some excitement today. We met a fairly large groups of folks from England. One couple of the group own a house in Compolattaro – the village next door to Pontelandolfo. Gerry and Jane plan on doing what Jack and I do – six months here and six months there. Listen up folks, there are houses for sale and this isn’t a bad place to perform your third act.
Speaking of acts, while I was at the pool a Facebook Messenger text popped up on my phone. It was Gene Kato from Next Stage Press. NO, THIS REALLY ISN’T A COMMERCIAL – THIS REALLY HAPPENED TODAY! Gene had done the dummy for the front and back covers for the play of mine he is publishing next. (He has already published two, “Many Snows Ago” is number three and this fall he is also publishing “Mamma Mia La Befana?!) So from the pool, like some hotshot millennial, I called Gene and we talked about the cover. OMG – what a day! Third acts like this are simply fabulous dahlink.
Tonight we are going to Sesto Senso for dinner. Who can cook after a day like this? I will be too tired to write about dinner – which starts close to 9:00 PM. Just know it will be yummy. Oh, and thank you for asking about my day.
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 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.
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.