Category Archives: Traditions

A Love Story and a Wedding

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Once my dad decided that the USA was a nice place to settle down, he sent word home that he was coming back to get married! Since my mom had lost her mother when she was 9 years old, my father’s mother took over that role for her. She took her shopping for everything – mainly the favors and the fabric for her wedding dress. The wedding was going to take place the day after Christmas and the dress had to be designed to fit the season. They decided that it was going to be made of pizzo di lana or wool lace. They chose the fabric and a tea length design to go with the fashions of the times. The seamstress made an incredible gown, that even today, is still in wonderful condition. This dress is definitely an heirloom and a treasure. My mother told me that before sewing the hem, the dress needed to be hung for several days so that the weight of it would settle and the hem could be made straight. One of my mom’s friends was a professional model in Milan, and her wedding gift to my mom was the veil! They went to a very exquisite boutique on the infamous Via Montenapoleone in Milan for the headpiece. Sadly, the veil did not made it through the years. The stays became rusted and ruined the fabric covering the corona.

A few weeks before the wedding, as was the custom, the bride and the groom would make the rounds of their guests and bring the confetti or favors. Because my dad was coming home only two days before the wedding, he wouldn’t be able to go with my mom to make these visits. My uncle ended up going with her instead. Even though she appreciated that he was escorting her, she wished that it had been her fiancé.

The day my father was expected to arrive home was a very foggy and gloomy December day. He would be arriving from Milan by train to their little town of Ispra. My mom wanted to surprise my dad by meeting him at the train station, but it was so foggy that she had a hard time seeing anything. Every person she passed, she stared at them hoping that it would be my father. None of them were, and she went back home forlorn and sad.

That afternoon, my father’s sister came running to her house announcing that my dad had finally arrived!  Why he didn’t go down to her home himself, I don’t know, but maybe that’s just the way things were done back them!

They spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together and all the final preparations for the wedding were made. My father had brought back some vacuum sealed cold cuts from America that were given to him by some friends that owned a salami factory in San Francisco. Vacuum sealing was a new concept at that time, and everyone was so impressed that these cold cuts had come all the way from America. (It’s funny how, at that time, anything that came from America was the best – and now we know that when it comes to cold cuts, Italian products are so much better!). Little finger sandwiches were made with these American delicacies for the wedding feast!

On the day of the wedding, my dad went to my mom’s house with the wedding bouquet. He and my mom walked to the church with their entire entourage of family and friends following behind them. The walk was not far, but the path was all cobblestoned. That didn’t seem to bother my mom as she wore her silk high heeled shoes. She said it was a good thing it wasn’t raining that day, or her shoes would have been ruined!

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During the wedding ceremony, my mom took off her engagement ring and presented it to the Madonna as she had promised when my dad had gone off to America. He had come back, they had gotten married, and now she was going to keep her promise. To this day, on the feast of the Madonna, when they parade the statue through the town, her ring is still there. My mom’s best friend looks for it every year and reports back to my mom!

The reception took place at the villa where my grandmother lived. They had finger foods, champagne, and a beautiful wedding cake (a gift from the town baker, a good friend of my dad’s). They posed for some gorgeous wedding photos and this album has become a beautiful (and rare) treasure to have.

After the reception, the newlyweds took off to begin their honeymoon. The first night was spent in Milan at the Hotel Principe di Savoia.When I went to Milan a few years ago, I was surprised to find out that my hotel was across the street from this very hotel that my parents had stayed at so many years ago. I had to go in to see it and it was still as beautiful and stately as I’m sure it was back in 1955. Before retiring for the night, they had made arrangements to go see a show – Walter Chiari at the Teatro Nuovo . They took the metro and stayed out enjoying their special night. The next morning, they were woken up by the maid because they were still sleeping at 11 am! They were probably so exhausted from all the preparations and excitement of the days before.

They boarded a train that would take them to their honeymoon destination: San Remo on the Italian Coast. I haven’t heard too many stories of this part of the trip only that they visited the famous casino there and dined in the vagone ristorante on the way to San Remo.

Once home from their honeymoon, my dad had to prepare for his trip back to San Francisco. In the meantime, my mom settled her dad with her sister while she moved into the villa with my dad’s mom and younger sister. She didn’t know when she would get the Visa to come to the USA and therefore felt it would be better if she got all her ducks in a row. Little did she know it would take almost three years before she would get that Visa to come to America.

During her time in Italy, while my dad was in the USA, she continued to work. When she got home, she would help my grandmother with her sewing jobs. She shared a room with my father’s youngest sister and they became close friends. They spent time with the custodian’s sisters who were from Sardegna. Young men would pass on the road, looking at these beautiful young girls, and they would refer to my mom as the frutto proibito or the forbidden fruit! My mom missed my dad and the wait was becoming harder and harder to bear.

My dad would come home when he could, and the last time he came home before my mom was allowed to immigrate was going to be the last time. If she wasn’t granted a Visa, he wasn’t going to return to San Francisco. But in a last ditch effort, he asked a priest whom he had known his whole life for assistance. This priest knew the cardinal of Milan, Cardinal Montini. He and my dad went to Milan where they met with the Cardinal’s secretary. They came back very hopeful and were assured that things would work out shortly. Within days, my mom was summoned to the American Consulate in Genova. She was given a physical, and asked some questions as to her intent to emigrate. She was sent home and within a week, she received the notice that the Visa she desired was approved with the help of Cardinal Montini. She was on her way at last. Little did she realize that this same Cardinal Montini would become Pope Paul VI! She still has the letter from the Cardinal granting her the wish she so desired!

She packed a giant trunk and filled it with her dowry. She had linens, tea sets, clothes, and a Madonna that used to be in her bedroom. The mirror on the back of the Madonna was the only thing that broke on the long voyage to San Francisco. Seven years of bad luck definitely did not follow her, though!

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.

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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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!

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

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This was the most simple pasta sauce to prepare…and it was absolutely delicious! Traditionally it is made with long thin noodles, but my orrechiette (little ears) was delicious as well (even though some will think I committed a sacrilegious act by using the incorrect pasta shape!!) This dish is a typical Roman dish and the important thing is to reserve some of the pasta water in order to make the sauce! The starch in the water helps the sauce bind to the pasta.

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta – I used orrechiette (little ears), but I think anything would work well

200 g. pecorino romano – freshly grated (Trader Joe’s has a great one!)

Pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the pasta as directed.

While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese into a large bowl.

Add some of the pasta water, a little at a time, to the grated cheese. Mix it up until it melts into a nice consistency. Do not make it runny!

Add the cooked pasta and lots of pepper. Mix well and serve

Everyday Italian Cooking…Easy!

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My mom was watching me prepare dinner the other day and she blurted out, “You spend too much time prepping for your meals! Why don’t you make simple things instead of chopping, chopping, chopping!” Ha! Ha! Coming from an Italian Nonna, these words stung a little – I thought I was cooking something special and tasty, and in order to get all those good flavors, I had to spend lots of time prepping. But then, I thought back to my mom’s cooking – it’s always delicious and healthy…and a lightbulb went off that I don’t need to always spend so much time – healthy, tasty meals can be achieved with the simplest ingredients in the simplest manner possible. So I asked her how she cooked her chicken legs and thighs on the stovetop. This is her recipe – so delicious and, I have to admit, REALLY easy! You just need a little time to cook this slowly, but other than that, there really isn’t much to it!  I’m not going to add amounts for the ingredients because everything will be to taste!

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Ingredients:

Chicken pieces, such as drumsticks and thighs – skin removed but bone in

Desired spices – I use a combination of Italian seasonings, with pepper and a little salt

Butter

Olive oil

White wine

Directions:

Wash the chicken but don’t dry it.

In a skillet large enough to hold the chicken but not too large that the flavors can’t coat the chicken, place everything except the white wine in the pan.

Turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Let it cook slowly for about half an hour.

Look at it and see if the water has evaporated. If not and the chicken hasn’t developed any color yet, increase the heat just a tad. Cover and cook a few more minutes.

Check the chicken frequently and turn the pieces to evenly brown them. When all the water has evaporated and the chicken pieces have browned well, add a splash of white wine. Turn the chicken and evaporate down most of the wine.

The Cadence of Gypsies – A Book Review

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I have to say that this book kept me riveted from start to finish! It was an easy read and a great story!

Carolina Lovel found out at 18 that she had been adopted. Along with receiving this information (something she really wasn’t all that surprised about since she always felt that something was missing in her relationship with her adopted parents), she was given a box containing some mysterious objects, pages from a manuscript written in an unknown language, and her birth certificate which stated that she was born in Italy! From that moment on, translating the document became her obsession as well as her sanity. She found that it was similarly written to a mysterious document called the Voynich Manuscripts – an ancient gypsy manuscript which was almost impossible to decipher without LOTS of research. Carolina worked on this secret project,  revealing every tidbit only to her soulmate, Larry. Even though she shared all with him and he helped her with this endeavor, something was missing in that relationship, too. Carolina had the inner need to find herself before being able to give herself fully to another person. Larry seemed to understand this and hoped that one day she would find all the answers she searched for.

After graduating college, Carolina took a job at the Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. She was put in charge of 3 highly gifted (genius status) girls – put in charge because, even though these girls had intelligence levels higher than their classmates, they were always getting into mischief – to the horror of the headmaster! Carolina seemed to understand these young girls and they developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other. The girls were “affectionately” known as the FIGS.

When the FIGS crossed the line and trimmed the headmaster’s prize tree into an inappropriate “sculpture”, Carolina was asked to “take care of them!”. Carolina understood the FIGS and loved them, despite their mischievous ways. She decided to channel their high intelligence and creativity with an idea. She presented it to the headmaster to get his opinion, and with his blessing, she approached the girls with a project – to help her with her private research project of deciphering the Voynich Manuscript and, with that, her letter. She planned to take the girls abroad to Italy on a study abroad program. The girls accepted the challenge with great enthusiasm and they all contributed their intellectual powers full force.

Arriving in Italy, they were given rooms in an old farmhouse run by an elderly couple. As soon as they set foot in Italy, the girls and Carolina were accepted with open arms and shown genuine affection by the couple. It was one of the first times that the FIGS knew what it was like to be loved by a family. They all thrived here and realized that they could face their futures without any fear.

Carolina and the girls threw themselves full force into their research, uncovering truths and also dark secrets. All the while that this research was happening, dark forces were also happening at the gypsy camp in town which would ultimately affect Carolina and the FIGS.

The outcome of all these things coming together is what makes the reader keep reading – what’s going to happen? How are all the puzzle pieces finally going to come together?

I can highly recommend reading this book – it will keep you enthralled until the last page!

Buy the Book:  Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble

Author’s Bio:

Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency, established in 1995, representing authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan.

In 2014 Barbara became a partner in Strategic Media Books Publishing, an independent publishing house that specializes in true crime and other cutting-edge adult nonfiction.

Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her husband and three dogs who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix, Fitz, a miniature dachshund, and Gert, a Jack Russel terrier of sorts.

Connect with the author:  Website

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Interview with Barbara Casey:

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I am president and owner of the Barbara Casey Agency, representing authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Japan, and Canada, and I am also a partner in a publishing company that publishes nonfiction/true crime.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing creatively when I was a young child. I loved writing simple rhyming poems, then built up to more involved stories as I got older.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

Occasionally the words just don’t want to cooperate – they don’t seem to say what I want them to say. When that happens, I take my three dogs out for a long walk in the woods, and it is amazing how often that clears my head.

What is your next project?

The Cadence of Gypsies is the first book in THE F.I.G. MYSTERIES. The Wish Rider is the sequel to The Cadence of Gypsies and it is scheduled for publication May 5. So now I am working on the third book in the series.

What genre do you write and why?

I write primarily adult fiction – novels – but occasionally, as in this case, young adult novels. I also write true crime/biography, and Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly has just been released.

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