Category Archives: Uncategorized

Zucchero’s Black Cat Live Tour

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Last night I got the chance, once more, to see Zucchero live in San Francisco! This time he was performing at the iconic Palace of Fine Arts! The setting was great, with the most comfortable seats ever! We got to enjoy them when we weren’t standing up to dance and move to the great beats! We were in the 3rd row, with a great view!

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Zucchero put on a great performance – I’m always amazed at the stamina these performers have! He played straight for about 2 1/2 hours, never taking a break! His band was great, too! He had players from Italy as well as from the USA and they were incredible musicians! There was a sultry violinist that played front and center and she was definitely a show stopper!

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He began the concert with some of the songs from his new album, Black Cat. The songs were good but I have to say that, sadly, they weren’t my favorites. After introducing these new songs, the rest of the night was spent playing lots of his other songs, which were amazing. He played the guitar on many of them, with his mesmerizing voice booming all the while! One of my favorite pieces was Miserere – they piped in Luciano Pavarotti’s voice from the original duet they had performed many years ago, along with the music video from that performance. This was simply stunning! Zucchero singing live while Pavarotti’s voice boomed from the recording! You can only imagine the emotion!

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Zucchero spoke to us in his excellent English, even though he claims it’s not very good! He loves San Francisco and it shows! And it seems that San Francisco loves him right back! I saw so many of my Italian friends there – friends from my childhood that I haven’t seen in ages! The Italian community in San Francisco is timeless and seeing these special people is always a priceless treasure!

 

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?

Michelangelo’s Ghost – A Book Review

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Gigi Pandian has created a tale of suspense and intrigue in the beautiful Italian countryside. Jaya Jones, a professor of art history from San Francisco, is pulled into a treasure hunt to find never-before seen masterpieces created by Lazzaro Allegri,a contemporary of Michelangelo. His sketchbooks showed his drawings of the royal courts of India – an art that spanned two continents in ways never before seen.

This story is a thrilling combination of suspence and romance. It gripped me from the beginning, and had me hooked throughout its many twists and turns, until the end. The characters were all well developed and we came to know each one of them well. You couldn’t help to fall in love with Jaya – her spunkiness and resolve were contagious and I was rooting for her all the way through!

I wholeheartedly recommend this book – it’s a fun read and takes place in my favorite location of all time: Italy!

Where to Buy the Book:   Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

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Meet the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s debut novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut by Suspense Magazine. Her fiction has been awarded the Lefty Award and short-listed for Macavity and Agatha Awards. Sign up for her email newsletter at http://www.gigipandian.com/newsletter.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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The Verdict is In…but Was Justice Served?

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Amanda Knox’ fate was decided earlier this week…and, luckily for her, she was found to be innocent!  She spent 4 years in an Italian prison, accused of killing her British roommate while they were both studying in Perugia, Italy.

This case has brought tons of media coverage, both in Italy and throughout the world.  The story has become sensationalized, and the media has loved covering it.  And why wouldn’t they?  A beautiful American girl accused of killing another beautiful girl in a sexual game gone wrong – this story had everything to  make it exciting!  It even involved a black man from the Ivory Coast to add to the mix!

Unfortunately, since the beginning, there were too many questions raised about the evidence and it’s unreliability. And, of course, Amanda’s lawyers ran with this.  They used this to base their defense…and it finally worked to Amanda’s benefit.

But the question still remains: Was Amanda involved with the death of her roommate?

I have an opinion on this – and whether it’s right or wrong, I cannot judge – but it’s just my gut feeling.  I’m sure there will be arguments on both sides, but this is my feeling:  I believe that Amanda was involved.  I don’t believe it was a pre-meditated act, but I feel that she was high on drugs at the time and got involved in a sexual game.  Perhaps they were all high on drugs and during the course of “play”, things got out of hand and poor Meredith became the victim.

I think it’s a shame that Meredith’s parents cannot get closure on their daughter’s senseless death.  I haven’t heard if the investigation into finding her killer will begin again, but I’m not sure how they will without any reliable evidence.  Perhaps they will turn their attention to the prisoner they already have behind bars and pin the entire murder conviction on him.

Meanwhile, Amanda is free and back home in Seattle.  It will be interesting to see how her life will progress from now on, but I’m hoping that if she is truly guilty, her conscience will prevail and she will confess. And,  if she is really innocent, then I hope that she has learned from her ordeal and will use it to benefit others.

Coming Into the Home Stretch

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Returning to Ispra after my galavanting around Milan and Como, I found new areas to explore. After visiting some friends that lived on the north end of town, I realized that I didn’t know that area at all! So one day, after lunch (and leaving my mom with her sister), I set out. First destination was the lake. But instead of heading South as I always do, I headed North. Now I had been to the edge of the north beach before, and had even looked at one time about continuing in that direction, but had been intimidated by the lack of a path and the many granite boulders hugging the lake’s edge. But this time, since I knew that there was a path there somewhere, I braved the unknown. To my surprise (and relief), a path eventually appeared…and it was gorgeous! It reminded me of the Via del Amore in the Cinque Terre!!! Who needs to go all the way to Liguria when this exists here!


Winding along the lake’s edge, it was a beautiful and peaceful stroll. I was alone on this stretch of granite pavingstones with only the lake’s gentle waves lapping against the boulders. At one time, this area had been where the limestone mines were. When my parents were young, many of their parents worked there. My mom told me that when she was a little girl, her and her friends would ditch preschool in order to sneak down to this part of the lake to play! A bell would sound when they were about to blast, and the kids would take cover in some caves in case of falling rocks! Can you imagine the adventures they must have had? Today this area is filled with some gorgeous villas that even have water garages for their boats! When I reached the end of the path, I took a LONG winding staircase back up to the road.


From here I had to trek up to the top of the hill before heading down back into town. I passed some gorgeous properties – some new, but also some old stately villas!


The walk was strenuous but so rewarding!

Upon entering back into town, I passed a real estate office. In their window were pictures of properties for sale in and around Ispra. It’s always been my dream to own a little part of this little paradise! So I picked up their little property guide and started dreaming. Heading back to my internet connection, I began to do some research. To my surprise and excitement, I found an apartment in the center of town in the same complex as my mom’s friend. We had just been over for dinner the night before, so I was familiar with the building. We called him and he knew all about the place for sale….he even had the keys! What a thrill! The apartment sits on the third and final floor, and it has two bedrooms, one bath, two balconies, a kitchen, a large living room/dining room, a storage closet….and down in the basement a cantina! It is sunny and bright (the apartment, not the cantina!!! Haha) It is large and spacious! AND the price was great! But, with all this excitement comes the harsh reality of what buying a property in Italy really entails. Do I really know anything about renovating? What about finding reputable contractors? Yes, the apartment did need work….a new kitchen and bathroom would be great….new floors….removal of wallpaper and painting….some new windows….all the things I would need to make it mine! But the possibilities were clear. I had the picture of the renovated apartment that our friend had, and I knew that with some patience and some money, it would turn out beautifully!!!! So….I’m still dreaming and perhaps my dream will come true!


Sadly, our time in Italy has come to an end. We are on our LONG flight back to San Francisco. I have come back with treasured memories of my home away from home…and I have experienced life as it was here through my mom’s eyes. So much of who I am comes from this tiny little gem.

Ispra – La perla del Lago Maggiore
Ispra- The pearl of Lago Maggiore


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Ispra

An Unexpected Detour

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On my last morning in Milan, as I was heading down the elevator to grab a bite to eat, I noticed a poster inside the elevator talking about terrace dining at the hotel. Curious, I went in search of this peaceful paradise in this busy city. The terrace was on the rooftop and truly an oasis of tranquility. I grabbed a table and ordered my usual capuccino and marmalade filled croissant and sat peacefully taking in the fresh crisp air of the morning.


Refreshed and ready to tackle the city bustle, I headed out to catch the Metro! Feeling like a pro navigating the city, I found myself in Piazza Duomo once more determined to come away with some fashion purchases. This time I headed in the opposite direction from Via Montenapoleone to the “lower rent” district ( if there is such a thing in Milan), and, to my surprise, I found several “normal” stores! I must have been in a shopping mood, so I was VERY successful! In one of the shops, I even met an Italian pianist who will be performing at The Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco later this month – and she invited me to her performance! What a small world we truly live in!

Loaded with packages, I had to quit my shopping expedition to head back to the hotel for my ride back to Ispra. My cousin surprised me with the notice that he had taken the afternoon off from work so that we could do something together. What to do? We had about four hours to explore…so we decided to take a detour to Lake Como! The only other time I had visited Lake Como was in winter – it was beautiful, but not exactly tourist weather. We parked a bit out of the center of Como and began our trek towards the lakefront promenade. We passed my favorite little alleyways that I’m always so attracted to when I visit Italy. Tiny little winding alleys, with cobblestones underfoot and gorgeous old buildings with flowers hanging off the balconies, make me think of all the millions of people over the centuries that have walked these same steps! Explaining this fascination to my cousin, he said that, unfortunately for them, who have always lived surrounded by these ancient environs, they don’t even think twice about the historical beauty that surrounds them. I think I may have opened his eyes!


After passing gorgeous piazzas filled with outdoor eating, we arrived at the lake’s edge.


We found a beautiful little restaurant and enjoyed some wonderful pasta and a cool glass of wine. I couldn’t have been happier – al fresco dining in a gorgeous setting with a spectacular view, great food, and good company! Now this is my idea of La Bella Vita! Even though I didn’t get any George Clooney sitings, it was the perfect day!


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Location:Milan, Como

Incredible Milano

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Yesterday, I headed out to Milan in order to attend the Macef convention today at FieraMilano. I used every method of transportation to arrive (except I guess, boat)! I got a ride from Ispra to a train station that had a direct connection to Milan. Once arrived in Milan, I bought a 2 day Metro pass so that I could navigate the city with ease. Milan’s metro system is extremely easy to understand and also very accessible from many parts of the city. After checking in to my favorite hotel, the Westin Palace on Piazza della Repubblica, I headed out for some adventures!

Hopping on the Metro in front of my hotel, I headed to the heart of this vibrant city – Piazza Duomo! Upon exiting the Metro station, I was faced with the incredible facade of the majestic Gothic duomo.

I sat for awhile at it’s door, enjoying a prosciutto panino and doing some people watching! The piazza was hopping! There were throngs of tourists, and also throngs of street merchants trying to sell you junky little souvenirs. Holding on tight to my purse, I sat and admired this architectural wonder. Once I got my fill, I headed out in search of the famed Naviglio Grande. At one time, Milan was compared to Amsterdam in that canals traversed the city. In fact, there was a canal right near the Duomo from which the marble from Lago Maggiore came to build the massive structure. Over time, the canals were filled in and the city was built over them. The Navigli district is the only area in Milan where the canals are still present. At one time, this part of the city was extremely seedy and dangerous…but it has been rejuvenated into a trendy area filled with boutiques and restaurants. I have to say that the shopping kind of disappointed me, but the restaurants looked wonderful.

After exploring this area, I headed back to the Duomo area to do some window shopping. Milan is the city of fashion, so every designer is represented here. The prices are exhorbitant, but if you are looking for designer labels, this is the place for you!

Heading back to the hotel, I decided to spend the evening at the hotel’s bar, enjoying an aperitivo. Aperitivos are always served with food…it helps with the tolerance of the alcohol!

I sat with my IPad and wrote and wrote! Sitting in the corner, I wasn’t disturbed by anyone! Just how I like it! For dinner, since I still haven’t mastered the art of eating alone in public, I played it safe by ordering room service. Lasagne with a glass of white wine….not too shabby!

Today, I attended the giant Macef convention. This event is dedicated to Italian design and gifts. I came for for the sole purpose of looking at bomboniere (favors), but ended up finding so much more. I am inspired to open a gift shop in order to showcase all the gorgeous Italian designs I witnessed today! There is something about the absolute simplicity of Italian design that captivates me! And the ideas I came away with are an inspiration for some future endeavors. I will have to do some legwork in order to introduce the bomboniere concept in the USA! And who knows, maybe some other items will sneak their way in!

After wandering the convention today in my “gladiator” shoes, I had to call it quits! I dressed for success today, but fashion comes with a price!!!! But I came away with such a sense of Italian design, and also a dream of sharing it back home!

And tonight’s “loner” dinner was bruschetta! Yummy!


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Milan