Category Archives: History

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.

The Park of Monsters

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I subscribe to  Atlas Obscura’s facebook page, and just today this video popped up on my feed. The timing was perfect as the book I just reviewed, Michelangelo’s Ghost, takes place here in this park located a little outside of Rome. I had never heard of this place, and now, within a few days of each other, I heard about it twice! It sounds like it might be a very interesting place to visit – what do you think?

The Floating Piers of Lago Iseo

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The beautiful northern Italian Lago Iseo, located between Milan and Venice, has become the canvas for the latest work of art by Christo and his late wife, Jean-Claude (their other works include Wrapped Fountain and Wrapped Medieval Tower in Spoleto; Wrapped Monuments in Milan; and The Wall – Wrapped Roman Wall in Rome).

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The Floating Piers was conceived in 1970 by the duo and finally brought to fruition. For 16 days this summer (from 6/18 to 7/3), visitors can walk on these piers which will create walkways into the lake and around the island of San Paolo.

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The docks, or piers, are created with modular cubes of high-density polyethylene and covered in a shimmering yellow fabric.

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The wind and the waves create a living art exhibit that offers a unique experience – no two people will experience the exact same thing! The piers undulate with the waves and the sensation will be like walking on water!

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The exhibit is free to all, and open at all times (as long as the weather cooperates!).

As much as I can appreciate the engineering involved and the experience that this “living art” exhibit offers, I can’t help but feel it’s an eyesore to the beauty of this magnificent lake. I’m probably not very popular with this thought, but if I was visiting this lake as a tourist to see its beauty (and not the exhibit), I would be disappointed that I couldn’t see it untouched by the orange piers. Thankfully it’s just temporary and soon the natural beauty of this beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains, will be restored.

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The photos are courtesy of Here & Now.

 

 

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Good from Tragedy…

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On September 29, 1994,  an American family (Reg and his wife Maggie, 7-year old Nicholas and 4-year old Eleanor) were vacationing in Italy when, late on a Thursday night between Salerno and Reggio Calabria on their way to Sicily, masked bandits opened fire on their car. “There was a small car following me from close behind,” Mr. Green told reporters later. The car came up alongside their car and the masked bandits began to shout something that he and his wife did not understand. The story goes that the bandits mistook their car for that of a jeweler whom they wished to rob. Reg Green accelerated while the bandits followed and opened fire at the rear of the car where the children were sleeping in the back seat. Mr. Green kept accelerating and the bandits kept following and shooting. It was only after the gunmen had abandoned their pursuit and the Greens pulled  over did they realize that Nicholas had been shot in the head. Sadly, Nicholas passed away in Messina a few days later.

Rather than seek vengeance and blame Italy for their tragedy, the Green’s selflessly decided to donate Nicholas’ organs to allow other Italians to live. “I would have liked him to live a long time,” Maggie Green said of her son. “Now I wish the same thing for his heart.”

“Perhaps they do not realize how rare that gesture is in our country,” said Gregorio Botta, a columnist in the newspaper La Repubblica. “Perhaps they do not realize that half the children with heart ailments in Italy do not make it and die while awaiting a transplant.” Italy was filled with an emotion they had never felt when the decision to donate his organs and corneas became known. Organ transplants had been very rare in Italy, but since this generous act shown by a foreign family to the citizens of a country where their personal tragedy occurred, organ donations has tripled. The “Nicholas Effect” was born out of this horrible event. This is the title of the motivational book written by Reg Green, but mostly, it’s the movement that sharply increased awareness of the multitude of deaths around the world cause by the shortage of donated organs. As stated in the book, “it sent an electric shock through the human spirit.”

The Italian populace, inspired by this generous act, donated bells to create an everlasting sign of gratitude to Nicholas Green’s family. A moving memorial was erected in their home town of Bodega Bay, California. My friend Susan recently visited and here is her story and pictures:

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A beautiful memorial for a 7 year old boy in Bodega Bay! Nicholas Green was on vacation in Italy his family, all from Bodega Bay, when road thieves shot him. His parents lovingly donated his organs to seven Italians who were awaiting donations. The Italian community were so touched by the gesture they collected bells and sent them to his family and the Bodega Bay community erected the tower for the bells. The large center bell at the top was forged by the Papal Foundry and was blessed by Pope John Paul II. It has ‘Nicholas’ at the top and the seven Italian’s names who received the organs below it.  

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Some bells donated had been in Italian families for generations, or had been donated by churches.  There  are sticks at the base that people use to reach up to bells to ring them if the wind is not blowing

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The bell tower memorial is at the end of a short path – in wide open field because Nicholas loved playing in wide open spaces! This bell is especially touching as it depicts his giving of himself to others…

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If you are in Bodega Bay, stop by for a visit and honor this little boy’s legacy, and the love his parents showed despite tragedy.

Two men were arrested in November 1994 for the shooting:  Francesco Mesiano and Michele Iannello. They were tried, but in January 1997 they were found not guilty because Reg Green could not positively identify them. However, a year later, with no new evidence, another court with a jury convicted the pair. This decision was upheld by Italy’s supreme court in 1999 and the two are still behind bars – hopefully to stay there forever!

Prosciutto & Melon – A Perfect Combination

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Last night, after having eaten a big lunch for Father’s Day, we decided to have a light but tasty meal. I had a cantaloupe melon that was at that perfectly ripe stage, right before going bad! Ha! Ha! It was deliciously sweet! So I decided to pair it with some prosciutto! That combination of sweet and salty was the perfect light meal.

Prosciutto and melon is a classic summertime appetizer in Italy and has been so for centuries! Evidently, melon was considered a “dangerous” fruit back in Medieval times. It’s properties of being cold and juicy were not a good thing (maybe that’s why my Nonna used to forbid me to have ice cold water in the dead of summer because it would give me indigestion!). Anyway, to counterbalance the danger of the cold and juicy melon, it had to be combined with something warm and dry – like prosciutto! Hence, the delightful combination was born – thankfully something good came out of those dark ages!

Italy Meets Asia…Like Marco Polo!

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We all know that Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy from his travels to the Orient….so, why not combine the two cultures to make some exquisite pasta delicacies?  That is exactly what I did last weekend.  My mom, the native Italian, actually came up with the idea.  We live in California in an area with a very heavy Asian presence, therefore Asian specialty markets abound!  Asian staples are easily found in the local supermarkets.  We decided to make agnolotti, a sort of ravioli, with Sue Gow wrappers – a kind of very thin wonton wrapper.

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This is fresh and the pasta sheets are round and very thin! Just perfect to wrap around some great Italian filling!

Realizing I didn’t have the real filling meats (veal, beef, sausage), but having the desire to make the agnolotti RIGHT now (do you ever get those “want to make something right now” moments? – if so you’ll understand!), I decided to raid the freezer and refrigerator to see what I had readily available. I found some ground turkey and frozen spinach, along with pancetta and parmesan cheese and a couple of eggs to hold it all together…and voila!!! A delicious filling was created, I’ll have to say! I took a round wrapper, filled it with the filling, used a little water around the edges, and crimped the edges together. The finished product was a little half moon of heaven!

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I cooked them up in a brown butter-sage sauce and they were a big hit!

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So the next time you want to make some “homemade” stuffed pasta, look no further than the Asian section of the supermarket!

 

 

Royal Wedding on My Lake

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Even though this wedding took place last July (and I didn’t receive an invitation but we won’t mention that!), I was reminded of the occasion by the post in Donna Moderna yesterday when they announced that the bride, Beatrice Borromeo, may be expecting her first child.

Congratulations to the lovely couple – they will definitely have beautiful children! After all, she is a Vogue model and a distinguished journalist while he follows in his father’s business pursuits and dabbles in car racing. And their families are quite beautiful, too!

But I wanted to reminisce about their gorgeous wedding day, with all the festivities happening on my beautiful Lago Maggiore! I love referring to Lago Maggiore as my lake, but in reality, nothing of it is mine except for my roots and memories! Most of it belongs to the grand Borromeo Family and it’s because of this, that this wedding was so magical and grand.

The bride and groom, Pierre Casiraghi, both descend from some of Europe’s most influential families. Her family is one of the most aristocratic and noble families of Italy and are the owners of the Borromeo Islands right outside of Stresa. My blog post about them is here if you want to know some of their history. He is the grandson of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco, and the youngest son of Princess Caroline of Monaco.

The couple celebrated their civil ceremony in Monte Carlo a week before the religious wedding in Italy. At that ceremony, the bride wore a gorgeous gown by Valentino. But for her ceremonies in Italy, she opted for gowns by Armani.

 

The private religious ceremony and luncheon were celebrated on the tiny private island Isolino di San Giovanni.

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This island (which I never knew even existed) is one of the Borromeo Islands (which include Isola Bella, Isola Superiore dei Pescatori, and Isola Madre) and not open to the public. In fact, I wasn’t even able to find any pictures taken on the island itself.

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From here, the party headed over to the Rocca D’Angera, an old fortress sitting on top of my future summer home, Angera! (It’s nice to dream, isn’t it?)

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This fortress is visible from so many parts of the lake and I’ve seen it countless times. Back in the day, it was a scary place, but now it’s become a doll museum and a venue for some of the most elegant weddings ever! My mom actually attended a wedding here many years ago and she said it was gorgeous!

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Looking at the beautiful wedding pictures, I was transported back to my favorite place in the whole world – MY Lago Maggiore!