Luigi And The Lights

One late morning, Joel and I were sitting outside at Orso’s enjoying the sunshine, some coffee and wi fi.  It was a beautiful day, the cherries had turned from green to red in the past few days, the roses were in full bloom; shades of pink and red.  The fig tree was laden with burgeoning little green globes which unfortunately would not ripen till the end of summer.

Pasquale came out and asked Joel if he would go with his father, Luigi, to pick up a heavy box.  Since I was working on my iPad and he was getting a little bored, he jumped at the chance of a change of scenery.  Luigi came out and gave me the two finger  sign indicating they’d be back in two minutes.

It was more like 30 minutes, before they returned in the truck and started to unload what looked like a few large coiled wreathes.  At least that’s what it looked from across the street.

Soon it was apparent what was happening;


Up A Tree


Hidden From View


Taking Direction

Luigi had enlisted Joel to help him string lights in the trees in Orso’s Garden. That’s the official name of this small oasis across the street from the B&B. I’ve spent hours there sitting in that glorious Southern Italy sunshine, drawing zentangles, talking to Peter, looking at the panorama and trying most of all to be present. 

That day watching Joel and Luigi up in the trees stringing the lights was so heartwarming.  Joel had told me that Luigi reminded him of his own great-grandfather, Luciano, a few days before.  Luigi only speaks Italian and dialect for sure, Joel knows grazie.  So how the directions were being given and followed must have been a lot of gestures and pointing!

The afternoon was getting warmer, so I ordered a Perroni, hey that’s what you do in Italy and especially in Guardia.  Are you ready for this? A bottle of beer costs 1€! Now if you want Heineken then it’s 1.50€.  Oh what a great place!

The guys had to take a break, Joel had a rash on his arms but was not going to complain because Luigi had cut his hand in a few places with the knife and shrugged it off when Joel pointed out the bleeding.  God, that reminded me of my own father! By the way, I didn’t take his picture but should have, because Luigi was also up in the trees securing lights, he is very spry.


A Well Deserved Break

Here are a few garden photos;


All in all this was a very pleasant day.  We went home and it wasn’t until a day or two later we found out the lights were turned on in the garden that night and everyone was eating chicken!


After our encounter at Forrest we decided to just keep on going down the road, we’ll see where it takes us.  For someone who drives everyday, I thought Joel might not want to drive so much, but he also wants to see Italy.  We see a sign and a turn for Castelvenere and we go.

The first impression which seems to be the most common first impression EVERYWHERE is that it is so quiet. Where is everyone?  Of course, we can’t seem to adapt to the fact that between 1:00 and 4:00, it’s all closed, everything, everywhere.


Il gatto dormi


Joel plays to a full house (of empty seats) and a standing “O”.


Stucco and stone is everywhere in Italy. Castelvenere is pretty and clean


This beautiful serene doorway just caught my eye.


And I did let Joel get into the act!

We found a little cafe with some tables outside, perfect for a bite to,eat and drink.  A sunny lazy day in Italy.

Ciao for now !

To be continued…


The beauty of being here is being here! I want Joel to experience the people and the place, so we are going to buy some olive oil and some concoction of 🍅 spices and I don’t know what else is in it but it makes one hell of a sauce for pasta with some chopped olives. 20180507_205132I want to buy a jar to take home and the olive oil.  We went  out of town towards Telese to the Forreste cooperative.  What a place!  Like gas pumps, there are huge silver tanks with indications as to what wine is in them.  You literally pump your own wine in multi-liter jugs.  This is definitely better than a wine club!

We go in and are drawn to the olive oil tasting table, where Joel proceeds to eat most of the bread while Assunta liberally pours rich olive oil on the bread for him to mangia.  Between the two of us we decided the robusto was the one for us.  As it turns out, I bought the robusto oil last week with Peter and have been cooking with it all week. Assunta realizes. I am taking this home this home on the airplane so she she conveys to me that she will put it in a tin. This idea leads to lots of running around by her daughter and frustration in trying reseal a can.  So come back domani. Fine tomorrow sounds good, meantime we will take the sauce and the spicy mixture and maybe Joel will stop putting honey on the bread and eating it.

Assunta wants to know what Joel does, so I say cinema, thinking that was the closest word I could come up with. She says, “Actor”?and immediately calls out to her daughter that he is an actor.  Ahhhh… selfies all around with lots of blushing.  It was really so cute! IMG-20180522-WA0001.jpg

My sojourn in Italy has been full of lazy mornings of sipping coffee and afternoons of grocery shopping and along the way there have been some adventures and misadventures.

The GPS in this car has been a nightmare from the beginning and so it continues.  Last week when I went to Molise I swear we were routed through a vineyard.  This time Joel and I found ourselves in two really bad jams with the directions.  One mistake was as we were cruising along he pointed a particularly pretty village set high up,on a mountain to the right and just beyond that I noticed an old red Volkswagon bug. Said, “you don’t see many of them any more”.  Thirty minutes later Joel says I think we’re going in a ⭕️ that village looks familiar. Naturally I said, “oh so many of them look alike”.  And then 10 feet down the road I spied the red VW. Oh for God’s sake, we hate this British bitch.  F409E9BE-8DF7-4D1D-960B-F5570AB6B714.jpeg

As if that incident were not bad enough, we also found ourselves being routed or re-routed over some tractor trail. It was full of ruts, holes, mud, puddles, rocks and often severely lopsided. Of course that was ridiculous.  What kind of directionS take you through someone’s farmland? I’ll tell you what kind, the stupid kind.

The trip from Guardia to Molise is approximately 58 minutes, it took us about 2 hours.  Here’s one of the reasons why:

To be continued…



Joel decided he would like to visit his great-grandfather’s ancestral home so we set off for Molise.  Molise is the smallest and youngest of the regions in Italy and lucky for me it isn’t too far from where we are in Campania.

Peter and I made the same trek last week because when we went there last year in my quest to find my roots, we met the most delightful woman, Tina di Giglio, who,was raised in Syracuse NY and then as a teenager, her family returned to Mirabello and now she works in the registry department in the Municipio in the village. Tina greeted us with a warm hug and a huge caciocavallo, which is an excellent cheese, also known as horse cheese.

5FB744B3-C221-4260-BF14-1825A23C54DA.jpegWe spent a couple of hours poring over ledgers from the 1890’s through the early 1900’s.  I was trying to determine which brother was the older, my grandfather, Luciano or his brother, Antonio -a great debate had ensued over the winter between cousins. It’s amazing what can get so-call lost in translation  or just misinformation! Anyway to set the record straight, Grandpa Louie was the elder.

We were also looking for death certificates of 3 siblings, who,we never knew about until my cousin Kathi unearthed records through the Mormons.  I found those; very, very sad, a girl child named Giovanna died at 11months old. A few years later, a baby boy was born and named Giovanni and died 7 days later.  More years passed and a girl child was born and named Giovanna- she died at 18 months.  It was heartbreaking to think of what our ancestors suffered through.

Joel and I stopped for gas on our way and naturally no one spoke Englishand it was a self service station. Well I was a little familiar with how it worked having experienced it with Peter. So I took out 20€ and was slowly deciphering the Italian instructions when an attendant popped over. I indicated I wanted to put the diesel fuel in. OK, he went ahead and took the 20€ put it in his pocket, pulled out some card which he swiped over the pump and proceeded to pump in the fuel. DONE! No change and I can’t see the pump to see what registered.  I’m pretty sure we were taken!

Ten feet out of the station two lights on the dashboard go on !! Now you know that the manual is completely in Italian and at this time I didn’t know how to photograph text and get it translated. So I did what I do best.  Out of the car with cane and manual in hand I walk into a cafe, “do you speak English?” NO. He says the word Tabacchi and points down the parking lot.  We go in, the man speaks a little. I show him the manual with the icons of the lights that are on and he somehow gets it across to us that the pressure is low and he says oil (I think) but I point to the oil can icon so we soon learn it is a tire.  Joel says probably because of the rocks ( more about that later) and the other light – he makes the motion of pulling up the emergency brake and again Joel says it might not have been down all the way. Mille grazie and out we go.  Our luck, there is a small tire shop 2 doors down, unbelievable ! I walk over and stand in the doorway of the garage.  There are two cute men who, are obviously brothers and another very good looking man working on a car 🚗. They look at me, I look at them.  A few more moments pass, one of the men approaches me and I say, “I need help” and I point to the tire which looks a little soft.  He, in turn, tells the other 2 of my problem and they all come over. Si, they look at the tire, it needs air. The main guy gets the air pump and proceeds to check each tire and fill with air. I say, “I hate this car” . They laugh, and it is a Renault. 9E9CFBC2-7ADF-47B9-898E-9AEC45511752.jpeg

My response is “Yes and that is the problem, it is a French car”. That sends them all laughing. Of course the French can’t make a good car.  Joel asks them what do they think the best car is. All together now, “Mercedes and Volkswagon”.

I offered to pay and of course the answer was no.  We are so happy to have our problem fixed but when we get in the car the light is still on 😳.  We sit and I wave at them and we explain that the Luce rossa is still on. Good looking Italian gets into the car next to me, looks at the dashboard, touches something and the light goes off.  Really I did want to kiss him!”Grazie  grazie Italian genius “, we say and off we go.

To be continued…


After spending all that money in the supermarket, I was ready to live out yet another fantasy of my trip;  And that was to invite some new friends over for drinks and to got to dinner with them.  We made plans with Steve and Cindy to join us for apps and qfor drin and the we would go to Alchime, a very hip restaurant in town that Peter refers to as the night club.  He knows he can get a decent martini there!

We thought we were going to hear some jazz but unfortunately someone in the group was ill.  The word either got out that there was no music or even though we’re New Yorkers and often eat after 9:00, apparently we were still early for the Italian crowd, because it was just us four and another couple we were introduced to, Raoul and Anna. And we all ordered the same thing WHICH Imwas informed is JUST not the thing Italians order out because it’s what they eat at home.  Well really?! It was delicious, I believe I was a tagliatelle con sugo e polpetti. Tutto squisto!

Cindy had had Gin Gibson at our place and I don’t know if she switched to vodka, but she and Peter were loving them those onions! There was discussion up at the  bar with the young female bartender and Peter because he returned with his Gibson in a martini glass AND that’s the way he likes to drink his martinis and Gibsons period!

795F3DE3-C6B1-4C7D-992B-95FAB3FA589F.jpegGuardia is a small town and everyone is so friendly.  The influx of foreigners (many Americans) has not negatively impacted the town;  Some new businesses have opened which cater to the new arrivals and their tastes, I believe Alchime is one and certainly a welcome addition.  3BED1D58-535A-4FFF-ADC2-207EE6FCA763

Speaking of Guardia….

To be continued…





It ’s Sunday evening after a harrowing day and we have reached our final destination.  We are welcomed with open arms by Pasquale, our landlord and local entrepreneur and his lovely mama, Anna.  It’s good to be back again.

After a few more pleasant exchanges, we made our way home to the apartment where we would be staying for a week or so.  I sent Peter out to a restaurant across the street for some pizza and to see if he could find a martini ( yeah good luck).   A little unpacking to settle in and find one’s toothbrush while Peter locates an English speaking channel.

The apartment is not why I came to Italy it’s why Peter came. It is modernly finished and furnished; two flat screen TVs( essential one in BR) centrally located, microwave oven, lovely bathroom, you get the picture!


MONDAY: Well I told Peter the tourist-eating- out-every-meal was basically over and now we were “living” here so we better go to the grocery store.  We are near the Deco Supermarket, our next destination.  “Just a few things”, I say, “ the essentials,” which came to $94 € later and now the store manager loves me.  Probably no one else has spent that much money at one time in his store in who knows when, PLUS the cane and boot,

I’m excited to cook something that night but there may be an issue with the gas. Or it may be something lost in translation but I’m afraid to start cooking pasta and have the gas run out in the middle and I’m not getting the reassurance I need to hear from Pasquale who says he can check tomorrow. SOOoooo Peter goes to Pasquale’s bar to buy a chicken for dinner and I decide to make a fancy insalata.  My idea did not go over so well.


Radicchio, fennel red onion and oranges just didn’t make it as salad for him.  We did have a good laugh though when we figured out that we were renting a place that should have gas but maybe didn’t from Pasquale so in order to eat, we buy a chicken from him.  Works out really well for him!

TUESDAY: When we stay at the apartment, we can go to the bar in the morning if we wish, and have grande caffe Americano, one nero and one con latte calde and our choice of a brioche. This sort of uinversal breakfast pastry varies in form and name and filling. In Florence they were smaller and referred to as a cornetto, in the U.S.A. I’ve heard them called croissants, at Orso’s it’s a bioche with cream or marmaletta or ciocolatta, or a fruit tart. We sit outside, sip our coffee, Peter reads The NY Times because his wonderful wife got a month’s subscription on her kindle for him! We spent about two hours soaking up sunshine in the garden.

WEDNESDAY: As we sat having our usual morning coffee, we were introduced to Steve and Cindy, a couple from Arizona who moved to Guardia in January permanently.  Of course that opens up a conversation of a million questions and answers.  As it turned out we were going to see a house for sale that was just doors down from them.  Unfortunately when you say a few doors down from someone in Guardia you could be talking about a 45 degree angle of uneven stones.  They came along with us to preview the house which had a most spectacular view!


The crane to the left is there because they are working on the building that was a former convent.  This view was from the terrace!! LOVE it. But you can’t live outside even if you plan only to come in the spring or fall. The kitchen had been modernized  and had a fireplace which was probably the only source of heat. That was the only room on the first floor, maybe two steps up the staircase, there was a bathroom branched off.  BIG problem there – the stairs wind a bit upwards and are marble.  How would I ever get down in the middle of the night?  One level up was a big bedroom and then another level up there was two smaller bedrooms which could be opened to make one large. Well that’s too too many stairs and made of marble, not to mention I was pretty sure there was a leak in the roof and some water damage in the walls. No sale today.

THURSDAY: We wake up to a gray day and I notice a message on WhatsApp from Pasquale.  It’s in Italian but I think it says we should move the car because we may be over the hour – that’s my rough translation.  I send Peter down to move the car to the bottom of the staircase and I will get myself down.  As I descend, it starts to rain, I don’tsee the car! I keep going down, it’s raining harder, no car, I’m at the bottom and it is a downpour and still the car is where it was parked.  I am screaming curses as I hobble with cane to the car and get in soaked to the skin, wondering how and why the car had not been started and backed up before I got down the stairs?  Don’t bother, there is no sane answer.  For a moment we discuss the message about moving the car and we are going to head to the bar BUT it has started to hail! YES, it is May and it is hailing, big marble size pellets.

Not only was the car being drummed with ice marbles, the street was also flooding. We were parked probably closer to the more level upper end but below us it just went gushing past.

All good things come to an end, even hail,storms, so we headed down to the bar to assure Pasquale that the windows were shut! However, it’s Giovedi and apparently almost every place in Guardia is closed.  No one told us.  One little cafe up the road was open so we stopped in for a slice of pizza and a delightful arancini which is a rice ball stuffed with some sauce and peas and mozzarella.

 To be continued…