Moments with our Family in Italy

20130304_1_a1503Mom, Dad, my husband and I rode with Ottavio to the mall. The parking garage was full of small cars that we could see over.  This must be the thing Italians do when it rains.

We found one another at the entry and from that point on went together in a crowd -into small bookstores, into a teenager’s clothing shop where Eugina bought a jean jacket asking Zia what she thought. We felt absorbed into their culture, the five of us along for the ride. The family walked around an appliance store similar to Sears. Books, electronics, the entire family as one pack went through the store. My brother, husband, Roberta, and Gabrielle discussed CD’s and Gabrielle bought a Red Hot Chili Peppers one. Some things were called a constant like facebook, and not face di libro, which they got a laugh out of.

Our whole group was tired I think. We drove from the mall along the coast of the dark tropical high pine trees, the giraffe type that looked pruned 30’ into the air. Ottavio drove us by Beta Fence, his place of employment, and drove so fast down that road. He talked of biking the hills, su, ju, up, down, up and down. We all met at a little barista, this Sunday evening on a parallel street to the beach, in one of those shops we saw when we walked into town Thursday. So I had coffee. The Italian relatives had lattes. Americans had beers. Our lunch had been so filling we all nibbled on appetizer snacks, which were enough. Roberta asked again why we’d come to Italy and we’d said to find family.

They had hosted us all day long, all of them. It was hard to express how grateful we were! We stood, went back upstairs, outside, then swapped numbers. Maybe someday we could skype. The two young girls, Gabrielle and Luana walked us home back to our hotel. Luana in her thick heels just as Maria Pia had done through the cobblestone piazza at San Gabriele. Gabrielle hugged Luana. The beach sounds were lovely and I wondered how often our families visited their own shore. Luana, Sivana, Maria Pia, and the two girls were so loveable. I’d always think of baci, baci, kisses, kisses they would say. Our entire last two days were like a dream and I didn’t want to let it go. We had to go? We all knew we’d be back to our family, the town, the mountains becoming us. We watched our last few relatives walk back to their cars a few blocks away. What a lovely two days that we couldn’t have planned. Gabrielle had even said himself that surprises were better.

Photo of mall by Progetto CMR Massimo ROJ Architects

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Breaking Bread with Family

Home in Giulianova

My brother rode with us on the way back and laughed along the toll road mishaps. Later we would learn that one time, twenty years ago, late at night Maria Pia got onto the wrong side of the highway and drove that way for twenty minutes into oncoming traffic! They told the story while also feeding her the bone of the lamb over our supper! She took the jokes well and I imagined that she may be the baby of the family.

Once close to the Ferroni’s house, where we would have the traditional Easter dinner, Maria Pia stopped along the street to chat with an oncoming car. Nadia and her husband, Alfonso, who would come to Sivana and Ottavio’s home later, were also our relatives!

We met Sivana and Ottavio’s children, Domenico, the architecture student in Milan and Allessia.  Once in the Ferroni’s home, where lunch smelled delicious we noticed the long table set for fifteen people! (Paolo, Pietro, Luana, Sivana, Domenico, Roberta, Eugina, Allessia, Ottavio, the genuine host, Gabrielle, and the five of us.) I remember the entry, the interior, how the land would fall off in the back, into gardens that Domenico said he tended while he was at home. The attic room had views to the sea and then to the mountains. The laughter that pulled us from the road came inside. The sheer fact of finding one another in the first place hadn’t worn off me yet.

We all sat down. Anyone who hadn’t come with us to San Gabriele had been helping to prepare lunch. A small kitchen off this dining room had more beautiful views. China plates were stacked and a napkin over our first course of this traditional Eater meal of spaghetti pasta and lamb. From the time the church bells woke us up to this moment back in Giulianova my mom was like a little girl. So small, so innocent, so happy to be whisked away by our relatives. It seemed every twenty years or so one of us from the states would come to Giulianova and find our roots.

Ah, so our meal began. The olives, the fried cheese (the brie cheese lightly breaded), the procutto (and the pate tasted good alongside of the spicy meat) was so delicious! What Dad would soon find out was that the sooner you finished your plate the quicker you got more food. Gabrielle would jump up to give Dad more Procutto, cheese, spaghetti…Dad was so full but he just couldn’t stop eating.

Later on in the afternoon Sivana would bring more pictures down from upstairs. Gabrielle in the 80’s looked hilarious with lots of hair, fluorescent clothes and big glasses. They had pictures of Mom’s cousins, Aunt Irma’s kids when they were there in the 90’s.

We had water, sprite and a little wine. At different times during our meal we’d get up to look at something, our houses on google earth for instance. Maria Pia had prepared desert and before it arrive don the table everyone made a sound like thunder… awaiting the dish. Tiramisu I think. During dinner Andy would grab Maria Pia and to her look genuinely happy and gay, but then behind her back he made the crazy loco sign with his hands and crossed eyes, which made everyone continue on laughing even more.

We had a long meal and as it came to an end so did the sunshine outside. So, what did we do next? Go to the mall of course.

Family in the Water

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No, this woman about is not our family. She is the proprietor that we were lucky to meet while eating in her restaurant establishment (or at least trying to) the night after we met our Italian family.

So, I didn’t take many pictures because living in the moment was so much more beautiful. My mother was taking plenty for all of us anyway. Unfortunately, somewhere between a hotel, and a bus though, we lost her camera. Someone took it, we left it, it’s a terrible mystery. We only have a few iPhone photos and our memories. It gives us even more reasons to go back to make sure it was all real!

From Giulianova to Mosciano back to the Adriatic in a day -we were tired with excitement and decided to grab a slice of pizza on our walk from city center back to our hotel. That’s when we met the lady we could never forget.  The one who continued to say our entire dinner ‘Family in the Water, Family in the Water!’ I think she meant family on the water, but we couldn’t be sure.

‘Manga, manga, manga’ the proprietor called to us as soon as we entered the pizza place. It should have been the first clue to us that if she was so interested in talking the last thing we’d be doing was eating. Alas though, we each ordered slices from behind the glass and a woman behind the counter grabbed them to stick them in the oven. We sat down at a long wooden table. The place was quaint but without any more customers. A gentleman came in to rest and read the paper while he awaited his pizza to go, but when the owner wouldn’t stop talking to him, he left. She continued to chat to us. Fifteen minutes had passed and the first person’s pizza came out from the oven. The rest of us were still hungry. She hovered over our table talking, asking questions, cutting us off and waved her hands signaling and stating again ‘manga, manga, manga!’ Then, would be back the next minute without our food to start all over again.

We didn’t ever figure out what happened to the slices Dad and my husband had selected for the oven. We did squeeze in telling her that we were in Giulianova to see our family, which meant that along with the manga proclamations the woman still had something else to chant: Family in the water, family in the water, manga, manga, manga! When we asked for the bill, figuring we’d need to find food elsewhere she said to wait, the woman behind the counter was preparing something special for us and out came a nutella pizza desert. That was nice, maybe she felt sorry for us. But, I felt sorry for her. We asked both ladies to jump in a picture with us before we left the restaurant laughing and still hungry.

First night in Giulianova, Italy

~Back to Italy~

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It turned out that our family lived in the country-side though we were staying on the beach in a fancy hotel that normally catered to Germans. The Hotel Europa –the Best Western was perfect. We arrived in the mid-afternoon, settled our things in, and took rest in our rooms at the sea before changing to go out and explore.

We stopped at a soda-pop-like-shop along our way to the center town of Giulianova at the sea. Using my rudimentary Italian I asked about a dinner menu –to which the gentleman behind the bar shook his head. It was only 6:30, too early for dinner. This time in Italy, more than ever, things were accessible -almost familiar, or at least not as foreign to me. In my third trip to Italy, the novelty of the new culture and place had worn off but was replaced by something more livable –familiarity.

Our family, realizing we’re in real Italy and probably won’t be eating before eight decided to stop somewhere and at least get snacks. We’re all sort of tired. It’s exhausting wanting something but not knowing where it is. We ordered: wine and sandwiches. The Italians were having espressos and cappuccinos, still too early in the day, apparently, for wine. There was a fill line on all of the glasses to assure you were getting the .1 liter you’d ordered. When we left the bar we walked down the busy street to get postcards and then went to the beach.

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The sun setting on the opposite coast made the sky purple with a streak of pink. There were thousands of tiny clam shells. The water was chilly and though I wore my swimsuit I wasn’t ready for swimming yet. The edge was nice, at this sea on a clear day, in the town we were from. We walked back to Hotel Europa and were told by the pretty receptionist we should go to Columbus for dinner.

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Sole e Luna in Roma

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My Mom and husband, who couldn’t sleep after 23 hours of travel, started walking the streets near our B&B. They found their way to a nearby park and turned a corner to be surprised by the dominating face of the Colosseum. They took us back later, when the rest of us had woken up, to have dinner in the district with rainbow flags. Within view of the 2000 year-old monument Mom toasted her father –who had come back to Italy forty years earlier to trace his own roots back to Giulianova.

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Roma, Day 2: At Sole e Luna we were served breakfast each morning in bed. I don’t know if there is anything better than being served Italian coffee on a platter first thing in the morning in Rome. The hotel courtyard below was full of potted plants, big ones, with new red blooms in the corners, and on window-sills. Rome was gearing up for the canonization of Pope John Paul II, or Ioannes Paulus II as they called him here, and Pope John XXIII, which would happen the weekend after we left the city.

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Italia ~ Day by Day

Italian Family

Last year my family went to Italy in search of our relatives… and we found them. It’s now a year later and I’ve wanted to memorialize our trip day by day to remember how special the experience was for us. So, for the next few weeks each day I will present an image or two and a short synopsis of what we experienced.

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The first day was a day of travel.

Half-asleep, we meandered outside to find the bus between the airport and historic city center. Men along the curb side pick-up were smoking, and speaking with all of the extra inflections one would expect, stereotypically. When our bus arrived the Italians crowded the drive and we shoved along and into the mess because we wanted to get on –which we did. Into the ancient walled city, the crumbling brick facades, old plaster colors fading into the street.

Welcome to Italy, where lunch portions are digestible, the restrooms are inaccessible to anyone impaired, always downstairs behind some small doors, and you listen in on a language spoken like a romantic Latin song.

Our hotel, Sole e Luna, was through a small door, easily missed as the marker was a note beside a doorbell. Up four and a half flights of steps or from within the elevator cut into the stair, we found our rooms and opened the shutters.

Welcome to Roma.