Category Archives: Current Events

A Year in the Company of Freaks – A Book Review

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A Year in the Company of Freaks

I recently read this highly enjoyable book by Teresa Neumann. This book was funny, fast paced, and a real pleasure to read. This book takes place during the early 1970″s when hippies were trying to find out of the way places to escape civilization for a while. Sid was born and raised in a small town in Northern California called Trinity Springs. A horrible tragedy during his early life left him feeling lost. While trying to make sense of his life, he ended up doing something really stupid which caused him to earn a year of probation back on his home farm. The sheriff in charge of his parole happened to love this young man, even though he was becoming harder and harder to love. Knowing full well what would set him straight, he “sentenced” him to a year of hard labor on his farm. He also put an ad out for some boarders to help with the expenses of running the farm. Four others joined Sid at his farm – an odd group of people, with nothing in common except for being somewhat lost in their lives – came together for a year to live and work together. Their trials and tribulations during this year were both hilarious and heart-wrenching at the same time. They all needed something and were hoping to find it out in lonely Trinity Springs.

I can highly recommend this book – you end up rooting for each and every character and are anxious to see where life ends up taking them during and after this year spent together.

Meet the Author

Teresa Neumann

 

Author of highly-acclaimed “A Year in the Company of Freaks,” Teresa was raised in a large Midwest family and now lives in Oregon. She is also the author of “Bianca’s Vineyard,” and its sequel, “Domenico’s Table.” Both books are based on the true stories of her husband’s Italian family in Tuscany. In addition to enjoying family, writing, reading, meeting her readers, wine tasting, traveling, and all things Italian, Teresa loves playing the fiddle with other musicians.

Here’s a little guest post by the author, Teresa Neumann

Italy Meets California in a Stereo Breaking — or Not — Hippie Adventure 

Years ago, my high-school aged children and their friends began badgering my husband and I about our old “hippie days.” Despite my admonition that it wasn’t all “flowers and rainbows” – that there were equal parts “thorns and twisters” – they, like most fun-loving adolescents and adults, preferred to believe that you can “have your cake and eat it too.”

The truth is, you can have fun, but cross certain lines – illegal or legal — and fun can become dangerous and even criminal, with all the consequences that go with it. Thus was born A Year in the Company Freaks, based on my personal observations and coming-of-age experiences living as a Midwest transplant in northern California in the early 1970’s. Considering the truly stupid, reckless things I did in my youth, it’s a miracle I lived to write a novel about that time period!

Now, for those familiar with my first two books – Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table – although the setting of Freaks is America, a deep love for Italy definitely bled over into my third novel. For example, the main character, Siderno “Sid” Jackson, is half-Italian and it’s exactly that Italian “half” that helps ground him as he navigates the challenges he faces after getting busted for growing pot. Of course, wine also figures into the storyline. What story about Italians wouldn’t? However, it takes a back seat to pot. This is northern California – ground zero for the marijuana revolution in the U.S. — and Sid is, after all, Italian-AMERICAN.

Other colorful characters play central roles in Freaks (an albino biker from Texas, a tripwire Vietnam Vet, a Jesus Freak, etc.) giving many opportunities to explore, and often break, stereotypes – a key element of the book as well.

Except, that is, when it comes to Italians.

You just can’t break the stereotype of Italians being family-loving, food-loving, wine-loving, passionate lovers of life because that’s exactly what so many of them are. At least many of the ones I know!

And with family-loving, food-loving, wine-loving Sid Jackson, it just might be his saving grace – from loving pot too much.

Connect with the Author:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Buy the Book:
Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble
Add to Goodreads

 

Italy Book Tours Logo in colour

 

Surprises with Google Maps

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Ispra’s town square from Google Maps

If you’ve never tried it, looking at the street view on Google maps is loads of fun. I’ve used it, of course, to check out my own home but also to look at potential hotels and other places to visit. The fun thing about it is that sometimes you can see cars, people, and animals that are familiar to you – they just happened to be around when the google car drove by mapping out the street.

 

A few days ago, I decided to “Google walk” down the streets of my parents’ home town in Ispra, on Lago Maggiore. I know the town pretty well so it was fun seeing all the old places that are so familiar to me. While I was “walking” in front of my aunt’s home, I noticed a car with two women standing outside. One of those women was my aunt and it brought such a smile to my face. You see, my aunt passed away a couple of years ago, and seeing her once more was such a blessing. She was always a really fun loving woman, full of life. The expression on her face as the funny-looking google car was driving down her street taking pictures was absolutely priceless! Her and her friend were looking at it like it was “una bestia rara” – a rare beast! (I love that expression – it’s so fitting!).

Try it sometime, you’ll love it! Especially when you discover little gems like I did! What a special treat!

All in the Family

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This little girl’s voice is quite something – maybe it’s because she shares the same genes as her grandfather, Luciano Pavarotti! She’s only 11 years old but her poise – and also her power when she belts out the notes – is pretty impressive. She definitely needs some voice training to perfect her notes, but for only being 11, she is amazing! Plus, in this video, she’s singing one of the most beautiful and soulful songs ever – and I have to say that her interpretation of this song is very moving! She probably doesn’t really understand the meaning behind the lyrics, but she sure knows how to evoke the appropriate emotion!

La Befana Vien’di Notte….Trullalla!

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I posted this a few years ago….and wanted to share it again for a nice Holiday tradition!

Tonight’s the night….are your stockings hung?  All over Italy, children are awaiting the loot they will find when The Befana comes to visit.  And all women are getting ready for their day….or are they?  There’s always the question if being wished “Auguri” tomorrow is a good thing or not, since La Befana is an ugly old witch….and does it mean that whoever is wishing us cheer is thinking we are like La Befana?  Quite a dilemma, huh?  The story of La Befana is a cute one, and you can read about it on my post here:  La Befana by Tesoro Treasures.

But today, I wanted to share a fun little song from 1978, sung by the great Gianni Morandi, about La Befana.

Enjoy!

Trullalla, Trullalla!

The Befana comes at night

With shoes all broken

With a sock

Around her neck

With carbon, with iron, with brass.

On her broom

To fly

She comes from the sea, She comes from the sea.

And the snow shall fall

On the deserts of Maharaja

From Alaska to Canada.

She’ll need to leave

And she’ll sing while she leaves.

She’ll dress like a woman from the South

And with the sock she’ll arrive.

The storm will win,

And she’ll sing “Trullalla”

The Befana will arrive…

Trullalla…Trullalla!

A child,

The size of a little mouse,

Inserted himself in the chimney

To see her closeup.

When she arrives,

The Befana,

Without teeth,

Jumps and dances for some wime.

Then, hiding, she backs away

With the night stuck to her skirt.

And a warm wind will blow

on the deserts of the Maharaja

From Alaska to Canada.

Only one star will shine,

and she’ll have to follow it

to fly towards the North..

and the road is long, but

the storm will win.

And singing Trullalla

The Befana will go.

Changes in the Marriage Vow

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It was publicized last week that “fidelity” will no longer be part of the Italian marriage vow…couples will no longer  need to promise to be “faithful until death do us part.” Let’s be honest, infidelity has been rampant in Italy for many years – mainly on the man’s part, but many times also on the wife’s side. There is a total double standard, though, when it comes to cheating – men are forgiven a lot easier than women. I guess society (and men) accept that desirable men have mistresses!  But for a  women, this is frowned upon!. According to the law, infidelity in women can lead to illegitimacy – and this can disrupt the family! After all, a man may not know if a resulting child is his if his wife’s been cheating on him! Wow….I never realized that all this legal thought went into that little phrase. For whatever reason, though, they have now decided to abolish it entirely from the marriage ceremony. What do you think?

Devastation in Central Italy Today

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As most of you know, Italy was hit by a major earthquake early this morning. The quake struck in Italy’s central region, spanning Umbria, Le Marche, and Lazio, at 3:36 am local time while everyone was fast asleep. The old medieval buildings in Amatrice, Accumoli, and Arqua del Tronto collapsed – trapping hundreds inside.

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The magnitude 6.1 quake has already claimed 120 lives and injured 370 – sadly, this figure is most likely to increase.  The mayor of Amatrice reported that half the town is gone, meanwhile the mayor of Accumoli has said that there are no longer any homes that are habitable. Tents are being put up to house those displaced, and the many tourists in the area have been told to go home.

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The before and after shots clearly show the devastation that has occurred in these beautifully picturesque small towns, whose stone structures have withstood centuries, and which have been wiped away in the span of a few seconds.

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Too Many Tourists in Italy?

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Summertime is probably the busiest time of the year to travel to Italy – not only are there lots of foreigners visiting but Italians themselves take their vacations in August. I’ve always thought that it was not a very good idea for almost the whole of Italy to shut down during the Ferragosto Holiday (the weeks around August 15th). It seemed to me that the poor Italians had to visit the beaches and the mountains (or wherever they want to spend their holiday) when they were at the peak of crowds! I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like to sit on a beach among the hundreds of beach chairs all lined up in a row (and several rows deep!)….

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I like to be able to spread out and enjoy a tiny bit of paradise to myself. That is relaxing to me – not surrounded by hundreds of people. But that’s the way it is and maybe Italians are used to that!

But now, worse than ever, things are getting seriously crowded in many Italian tourist destinations that there is talk of limiting the number of tourists in these locations! Can you imagine planning a trip to the Cinque Terre or Venice and being turned away because they have reached their limit for the day? It’s as bad as visiting Disneyland or some other amusement park!

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According to the latest statistics, the amount of tourists in Venice and Florence has risen by 5%, in Capri 9%, and a staggering 20% in the Cinque Terre! This is putting a strain on lodging and on also on the life of those that live in these places. For example, there are only 5000 people who live in the Cinque Terre, but they get over 2 million visitors a year! Of course, this tourism brings lots of money into these areas, but it’s also becoming too much to handle.

It seems to me that there are logistical problems with trying to impose these limits – how do you close an entire city from more people coming in? It’s not like a paid attraction where you can limit visitors at the door. So I don’t think this will be successful but maybe other, less popular but just as beautiful locations, can be pumped up so that tourists are dispersed and not concentrated in just a few of these heavily populated vacation spots.

What are some of your favorite locations in Italy that may not be as crowded? Mine would be the Italian Lakes, even though I know they get their fair share of crowds during the summer months…

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