Alfedena – 3

Last night Cousin Tullio asked me if I had a car (he doesn’t) and whether or not I had been to the cemetery yet.  A visit to the cemetery is just something that you do when you’re here.  I assured him that I would take him this morning, so he met us at the hotel, and into the Fiat we all jumped to pay respects to the ancestors.  We did a little cleanup and worked together to repair a footing at the door to his chapel where his wife, Marina, rests, along with his parents and grandparents.  We chatted about our family history, as we usually do, and departed with our sense of family well intact.

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On our way back to town, we stopped at the museum to see some artifacts from old Alfedena .  An unexpected stop, but very interesting.  Glad we stopped there.20150829_114718

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After the museum, what else…?  FOOD!!  Cousin Tullio insisted on buying us lunch.  Can’t say no; off we go.  IMG_2622I still had more visits to make, so after lunch Jodi and I strolled over to visit with my wonder friend Adele.  I call her zia Adele but she isn’t my aunt, only a warm and lovely lady that anybody would love to have as a relative.  She is the type of person who makes you feel like she waited all year for your arrival.

20150829_13440620150829_134506Zia Adele speaks faster than any Italian I’ve ever met.  But what is interesting is that I understand almost all of everything she says.  I think maybe it’s because I don’t have time to try to figure out nouns and verbs, I just get about every 5th word and the conversation flows.  Our visit together is always a highlight of the trip.

Next we strolled back to the hotel for awhile because we had plans this evening to pop a bottle of Asti with Cousin Tullio.  Let me rephrase that… Cousin Tullio had plans to pop a bottle with us.  He is so happy we are here that he is taking advantage of every minute he can get.  I told Jodi we only needed to have a quick drink to make him happy, and then we could scoot out. I’m thinking by now Jodi might be on Tullio overload so I was hoping not to stretch this out.  (Think again.)

Cousin Tullio started proposing toasts to everybody; our children, Jodi’s grandson, Dennis, the family, Pucci the cat…  That was really unfair of him.  You can’t start toasting people and walk away.  So we didn’t.  We finished the bottle.  You win, Tullio.  We surrender.

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On the way home we stopped for a pizza.  Jodi was pretty full from all the cookies that Cousin Tullio feed us with the Asti, but I went all in.  Pizza was delicious. I should know, I ate most of it.20150829_20444020150829_211701Tomorrow… off to Orvieto.

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Alfedena – Day 2

We started the day with a stroll to Cousin Tullio’s house, but he wasn’t home so I left a note on his door and we continued down the street to visit with my friends, Domenica and Lorenzo DiValerio.  They have the same family name but we don’t think we are related.  They are always so gracious, and their granddaughter (who speaks English quite well) was visiting so my Italian took a break.  IMG_2554

After a short visit, we were ready for lunch, so off to Castel di Sangro, the next town over from Alfedena.  A great salad with tonno and a Peroni, and we were off for more adventure.

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On the way back to Alfedena we took a detour and drove up to see the village of Scontrone, a very picturesque place with great views.  We drove around looking for the perfect location to take a couple of pictures.  You have to be careful driving on these tiny streets because you’re way up, and if you’re not used to driving a standard shift, you could easily do a “Thelma and Louise,” which would make for another great picture, but not exactly what Jodi and I had in mind.   20150828_135258

While we were taking pictures, my Italian cell phone rang.  There is only one person who would be calling me… Cousin Tullio.  He said he was at home now and wanted us to come over.  I told him we were up in Scontrone and would be over to see him in a short while.  H20150828_134231ooray… going to see Cousin Tullio.

We dropped the car off at the hotel and walked through the town to his home.  Ding dong goes the bell.  The gate buzzes open, and in we go to the courtyard.   And then the hugs and kisses started.  We are always thrilled to see each other, and this year was no exception.  Jodi was amazed that his 86 years were not evident in anything about him.  We sat at the kitchen table and caught up on things.  He was happy to show Jodi the sculpting on the fireplace that his grandfather had done many years ago.  We invited him to dinner, and he agreed.  Everybody should have a Cousin Tullio.

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We all met that evening at La Ruota, a little restaurant in town with great food.  The wine flowed and the cinghiale pasta was delicious.  It was a good day in Alfedena!!

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We Arrived!

Hello, Italy!  Glad to be here.

The flight over was great; no bumps, no crying babies.  We arrived at the airport in Rome, and, as usual, departed the plane onto the tarmac and boarded a bus to the terminal. (Someone really needs to tell these guys about jetways.)  Customs was quick, and both our bags came to Italy, too.  So off we went to find the auto rental office (no easy task at this airport).  But in about an hour after landing, we were loading up our Fiat to start the adventure.

Unfortunately, neither one of us slept hardly at all (but I watched “The Great Gatsby” and decided that my bocce parties are probably more fun than his soirees). Anyway, I digress.  We plugged in the GPS and headed out to Alfedena.  About an hour outside of Rome, the message comes on that the battery on the GPS is ready to die.  WAIT… it’s plugged in.  What up?  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… the cigarette lighter receptacle is dead.  Uh oh.  Fortunately, being the Girl Scout that I am, I had packed a battery charger and extra cords for every kind of electronic device you can think of. So we pulled into a rest stop, and out came the bag of cords.  YAY… I had one that fit!  We’re saved.  Of course, I also had printed a chart of the drive, so we could have done it the old fashioned way, but it wouldn’t have been pretty.

MountainSo now we have toothpicks holding our eyes open.  We arrived at the hotel, and Anna, the concierge, came out with open arms when she saw me.  We exchanged greetings and shared news and then settled into our room.  Jodi had made a silent bet to herself that when we arrived (in spite of being dead tired), that I would head into town for a glass of wine.  She won the bet.  Off we go.  We sat at the sidewalk cafe and took in the sights of this beautiful little town.

Two WinesAfter a brief walk around, this was Jodi’s idea, we returned to the hotel and decided that a drink at the bar was in order.  Funny what exhaustion does to the brain.  Amber, our bartender was delightful and is our new best friend.  Amber

But wait…  do we finally go to bed to get some sleep, nooooooooooo.  We decide to go to the supermarket and get some things at the deli to make sandwiches because we’re “still” too tied to go to a restaurant.  But I must admit, eating grinders on the balcony overlooking the mountains was a fun way to end the day.  And now… sleep.  More fun tomorrow.

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ITALY 2015 – Ready or not, here we come!

Getting ready for the next adventure to Italy.  Jodi and I will be visiting small villages, stomping on grapes and chasing down the cinghiale. Stay tuned… more to come!IMG_1788a

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Rome

Thursday morning we hopped the high speed train to Rome.  It was a terrific, fast ride and a great way to travel.  The concierge at the Hotel Teatro di Pompeo (Simone) remembered us from last year.  She’s a great gal and very accommodating.  

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The hotel is centrally located, so it’s an easy walk to all the sites that I love to see.  My usual morning stop is at Campo dei Fiori for the farmers’ market.  I stop in every morning just to browse around and see what’s going on.  Always fun to chit chat with the vendors.  

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On Thursday night we met up with my BFF in Rome, Cristina DiPalma.  Cristina is the daughter of Camillo and Maria who had us for lunch at their home in Alfedena.  We had a great evening with Cristina and got a little silly, but that’s what wine is for, no?

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One of my favorite places to visit is the Pantheon.  There’s something about that place that just gets me.  I can feel the energy when I walk inside.  Everything about it is exciting.  It’s a “must see” whenever I’m in Rome.

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Friday night we had dinner at Taverna dei Fori Imperiali.  The owner, Claudia, is a friend of my cousins Jeff and Sue Smith, so we had to make a stop there to bring greetings from the family.  Claudia was SO nice, and the food was fabulous.  Put this place on your list next time you’re in Rome.

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And then, of course, there’s Rome.  There’s nothing like Rome.  I’m already thinking about next year.  

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Florence

Made a quick stop in Florence. Just strolled around the city in the afternoon and then had an outrageously delicious dinner at a little trattoria near the hotel. 

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Also, took a stroll on the Ponte Vecchio.  I need to come back when I have an extra $10,000 that I don’t know what to do with.
I just love all that gold!

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Spoleto

OK.  Back to the blog.  Been a little busy, and the hotel in Spoleto has WiFi only in the lobby.  Good thing Dennis and I were just about the only people in the hotel.  I would sneak out in the evening or early morning in my pajamas and go online.  LOL. 

Our first day in Spoleto there was a humdinger of a rainstorm.  Maybe a good thing so we could take a little break from the frenetic pace we kept in Alfedena. Once the rain stopped, we wondered out to explore.  Spoleto is very beautiful  with typical, spectacular Umbrian panoramas.  Our hotel was located right next to a Roman aqueduct, which needless to say is just magnificent.

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Dennis is a big fan of “Don Matteo,” an Italian TV show that he watches in Florida, so we took some time to find different sites where they shoot the series.   With the Italian economy being in dire straits, having a famous show filming in town does wonders to showcase the area and brings in many tourists.  Spoleto seems to be doing OK.

During one of our strolls, we went by Teatro Nuovo, and I heard a woman singing opera.  Sounded like a rehearsal or practice session.  I could have sat on a park bench and listened for hours.

Food in Spoleto was super! (But come on, it’s Italy.  I’m going to say that in every town.)  I had the cinghiale (wild boar) and lentil soup on a couple of occasions.  Delicious.  And, of course, there’s pasta everywhere. Met a real nice couple from Ohio the last night at dinner, Linda and Crick. Had great fun chatting with them.

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Next stop, Florence.

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Cousin Tullio

Well what kind of a blog would this be without news about Cousin Tullio?  On Friday we headed out to Via Fonticella and (of course) Cousin Tullio was standing outside waiting as we arrived.  Hugs, hugs and lots of smiles.  We went inside to visit with everybody and catch up on family news.  I’m really happy to see that he is doing quite well after losing his wife in January and was in very good spirits.  I think having his sister with him is a plus.

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Since we had a car, we made plans for the next day to stop back at the cemetery and then go to lunch.  Concetta insisted that we stop at the flower shop so she could buy some flowers for our great-grandfather’s grave.  Two armfuls later (and two vases) we’re off.  Arranging the flowers was a very solemn moment and one I will long remember.  I am sure our ancestors were pleased.

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Then off to Pulcinella Ristorante for lunch.  Our friends Rosa and Vincenzo speak some English, so there was even more conversation.  It was a very good day.

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The Drink

Just a funny little story to share. As you may or may not know, Italians do not drink much hard alcohol, only wine and beer.  So a friend had recommended a restaurant to us, and we decided to stop in for a cocktail and see what it was like.  We walked in the door and were the only people there. We told the waiter we were in for a drink, and we could tell by the look on his face this was not what he was hoping for.  The bar had only two stools, which we occupied.  There was a drink menu available, and one of the items was a screwdriver.  Not wanting to make this difficult, we opted for two.  Oops, no can do. This stumped the fellow, so he had to leave the bar to get another fellow (probably the owner) to make the drink. 

OK.  First he had to leave the bar to get an ice tray… be right back.  Then he filled two martini glasses with ice. Next, he got a shaker and put about a shot of vodka and added orange juice (remember, this is for 2 drinks).  He emptied the ice out of the glasses, poured, and voila! 

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Dennis and I shared a few jokes about drunk driving, when suddenly out comes the bruschetta.  I’ll tell you, they may not know how to make a drink, but they sure know hospitality!

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Day Two

Today we took a ride to Scontrone, a small village on the top of the hill next to Alfedena. Very small, very picturesque. The panoramas were gorgeous.

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Later in the day we stopped to say hi to our friends, Camillo and Maria DiPalma (no relation, but like family). Needless to say, Maria fed us food and gave us wine. They are such lovely people. We took a walk with Camillo and made a new friend, Hugo, who lives in Alfedena and Ft. Lauderdale (figure that one out). Tomorrow we are going to the DiPalma’s for lunch.

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Also this morning, we made the stop at the cemetery (that’s always a “must visit” when we’re here). The DiPalma family has its own private chapel, and Cousin Tullio’s late wife, Marina, is now an occupant. I noticed there were fresh flowers, so I suspected some of his relatives must be staying at the house here. So this afternoon we took a walk, and I can’t tell you how delighted I was to find and meet a new cousin… Cousin Concetta, Cousin Tullio’s sister. We had a wonderful visit, and she spoke very slowly, so we understood most of the conversation. But one thing that I was having trouble understanding is that she seemed to suggest that Tullio had put flowers in the chapel yesterday. I thought to myself I must not be getting this. But again she implied that they put the flowers and cleaned the chapel together. Finally I asked, “Is Tullio here?”

Sì sì was her answer (with a big smile). So I asked again to make sure “Tullio è qui a Alfedena?” Sì.
Well, I’ll be darned. Here I am worrying about him in Milan because I hadn’t heard from him in awhile, and he’s summering in Alfedena. Ha Ha. He was out visiting a cousin. Concetta said he never received my letter saying I was coming over. Is he in for a surprise when he gets home!!

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