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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

House Hunting in Italy – A Busman’s Holiday??

I don’t know any real estate agent or broker who doesn’t live their profession pretty  much 24/7.  I don’t mean they are in their office every day or showing properties every day but whether it is meeting new people to expand your network or staying in touch with your circle of friends and those that are in a position to recommend  you or previewing new properties, well that’s the life of a real estate salesperson.  So even on vacation, you can probably rest assured that we (that’s me) will look a the postings in the windows of local real estate firms, read the local real estate magazines and some cases (uh oh now it’s getting personal) will actually engage a local broker to show them some property.  BUT wait, that’s not to mean they would waste another professional’s time by asking to be taken out but have no intention of purchasing,  No, when it’s just real estate curiosity that has taken hold on of oneself, then the appropriate thing to do is just go to some Open Houses,   Well that’s enough about practices here in the United States, don’t forget I’m in Italy (so to speak).

My trip to Italy was predicated on two major ideas; first to discover my roots and see the village my grandfather, Luciano Fantacone was born and raised in and secondly to explore the possibility of buying an inexpensive property in Italy, specifically Guardia Sanframondi.

I intentionally contacted Pasquale Orso about lodging and knew that he had assisted other Americans in finding a home there.   Within the first hour of meeting Pasquale, he spent considerable time explaining to me that he had connections and he could find us the perfect place.  I spent considerable time explaining to him that this was more of an exploratory trip and that I wasn’t planning on buying anything this trip!  The greater gist of this conversation was Pasquale extracting a commitment from me NOT to allow any random person on the street to entice me to look at some house because we were obviously Americans. ( Many Americans have already purchased property in Guardia Sanframondi).  I told him I understood and as a real estate broker would not do that.

That brings us to the afternoon that Pasquale is going to show us two houses;  We all      (literally 5 of us) pack into a small (tiny) Italian car and off we go to some outlying street of the town and one must park the card sort of off road at the top of a small incline.   The house is below in front of us, very sweet ranch like property with no lawn (I didn’t seem much lawn at all anywhere), however a very large patio with a rather make-shift open wall roofed structure off to one side where lots of potted plants were residing.  I thought I heard him say something about keeping the plants out of direct sunlight.  The house itself had a LOT of possibilities although Peter didn’t seem to think so.  There were really only 2 rooms;  A large great room that was the length of the house and featured an open kitchen (not exactly our standards) a fireplace, a kitchen table, a dining room table and chairs and living room furniture.  At the end of the room next to entrance to the bedroom was a very modern bathroom.  The house was not filled with light, not that many windows.  We went to the bedroom which was so big, not to make into two rooms would be a crime.  It was also dark but I believe there was a possibility of creating another window at one end.  Since Pasquale’s english isn’t exactly perfect I wasn’t clear on the configuration of the property as it seemed to be somehow connected to 3 other homes although not visibly.  He was talking about some Count or Prince or some nobility that at one time owned the estate.  The house had two small outbuilding rooms that were connected to the house  and were being used as storage sheds BUT they had two tiny windows that looked out on the mountains AND they could be enlarged.  Peter was not impressed that much and now in retrospect I think it was a shame that we saw this one first.  Cost $35000.  I’m sorry to say I don’t have a photo of the house, but this was the view.  

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I Wonder How Long It Takes Before You Get Tired Of Looking At The Beautiful Mountains?

Secundo – we are now back on one of the two main streets in Guardia and as we head down a hill, Giuseppe, a friend of Pasquale and our new driver, pulls off to the side of the street.  We are in front of a huge 3 story house.  You know using the word house here is a bit of a misnomer.  There are houses as we know them, if not in a recognizable style, they are at least wooden structures with roofs.  This is a tall thin stone structure, with a garage door (be still my heart)!  A house with a garage in the main part of town (not the medieval city).  As we enter, the first thing I see are the stairs, so many of them…But first to our immediate right there is a very large room, freshly painted and with a new floor and huge window looking at…the mountains!  And at the other end of the room, what did we see but the garage door!! Apparently the previous owners decided a first floor room was much more marketable than a garage, NOT!  Maybe they didn’t own a car, because parking on the narrow streets of Guardia is not exactly easy.  OK, so no garage, let’s go up and look.  Very steep stairs to the second floor where there are two bedrooms, nice views.  Up some more stairs, also very steep and lo and behold there’s the kitchen with a Juliet balcony, how clever, NOT.  Aside from my comments and the fact that I climbed the stairs barely breathing, it was clear to Giuseppe that this house was not for us!

                                                                                                     To be continued…

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FAMOUS FOR FLAGELLATION!!!

Tourists flock to Italy for many different reasons;  To Florence to see David, to Rome for the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and more. They travel to Venice for romance of the canals, Naples for the Isle of Capri, and to Milan for the fashion.  And of course there is much more, I could go on and on, for Italy is a treasure trove of medieval history, religious fervor and festivals, mountains, miles of beautiful coastline and fabulous food.

And then there’s Guardia Sanframondi!  Not your every day tourist destination.  However, THOUSANDS of tourists, visitors, and the locals from all over the region and other parts of Italy really do descend upon Guardia once every 7 years!  2017 is one of those years.  

Guardia Sanframondi celebrates a centuries-old religious rite. The following information comes from Wikipedia:  

Guardia hosts a riti settennali di penitenza or penitential rite every seven years. The rite honors the discovery of a Madonna and Child statue found in a field hundreds of years ago. The rite consists of a series of processions the week following the Assumption. Until recently, the rite was only known locally, but as residents moved elsewhere in Italy and abroad, word of the rite has spread. It has become something of a homecoming event. There are four components of the rite:

THE MYSTERIES:  The four quarters of town each form committees to organize a parade of “mysteries” (religious scenes), with volunteers in period costumes from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Lives of Saints. The neighboring towns of San Lorenzo Maggiore and San Lupo join with the committees to stage a few of the mysteries. In 2003 there were about one hundred mysteries in all. During the week each quarter of town has a separate procession through its own neighborhood. On Sunday all the quarters form a grand procession. The participants hold a pose depicting a particular moment of the mystery as they walk through town—they do not act out events. The committees informally compete with each other to put on the finest mysteries.     

Guardia-mystery

The “Mystery” of Saint Lawrence

CHOIRS:  Each quarter also forms a choir that joins the processions. Traditionally the choirs were formed of unmarried girls, but recently married women, and occasionally men, have joined in. The women wear white clothing, a symbolic crowns of thorns, and braided cords around their shoulders.

PENITENTS:  During the neighborhood processions, several flagellanti (“flagellants”) join in. They gently strike their backs with a metal scourge. On Sunday, the procession is joined by several hundred battenti (“beaters”) who strike their chests with a spugna (literally “sponge,” it is really a disk of cork holding dozens of pins). Designated helpers pour white wine on the sponges during the procession, supposedly to ward off infection. There are a few dozen flagellantiduring the Sunday procession, who also provide crowd control. The flagellanti and battenti are anonymous. They wear white hoods and are not even supposed to tell family members they are participating. Scourges and sponges are not carried openly or displayed in homes after the rite. The battenti are all men, although a few of the flagellanti are women.  Additionally there are a few dozen symbolic child flagellanti. They wear black robes and caps, and very gently swing a small scourge over their shoulders.   

one-penitent-during-the-bloody-procession-for-the-assumption-of-the-DP3E27

A Penitent Holding a Piece of Cork Studded with Needles

STATUE: The rite ends with the procession of the Madonna and Child statue through the town. After the mysteries start, the statue is removed from the church, at which point a cannon sounds to announce the event. The procession stops and everyone kneels for a minute. When the statue makes its way to the town center, the battenti walk in front of it on their knees. When the procession continues, the crowds follow the statue, or walk backwards in front of it. The procession ends as the statue is returned to the church. All-night vigils in the Church of the Ave Gratia Plena continue for several day

AND that’s why we are not going back in August!  No, not really but you can’t get a room anywhere for miles and miles around.  This is a BIG DEAL!  Did you read The DaVinci Code?  Remember Silas? The albino monk who not only flagellated himself, he also wore sackcloth and strapped a metal cilice (spiked garter) around his thigh.  

As I previously inferred, religious fervor is a real characteristic in these small villages in south central Italy.  Not only are most of the towns named after saints, each town has a patron saint.  The patron saint of Guardia Sanframondi is Saint Phillip Neri.

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St. Phillip Neri – Patron Saint of Guardia Sanframondi

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The Tales, Trials, and Tribulations of Travels with Peterlori

For the those readers of mine who have in the past enjoyed the tales of my trials and tribulations in travel, I think you’re in for a treat.  This trip was long in the  planning stage;  As the New Year rang in, the stark reality of turning 70 this year hit me,  and well,  that and a fairly significant real estate deal gone south, caused me to re-assess a LOT of things. What followed were a series of days and weeks when the phrases Carpe diem, You only live once and Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today and lastly, My God, this is a BIG one!  That’s the prologue to my finally deciding to go for it!  I’m going to celebrate my 70th birthday in Italy!!

And so in the wee hours of the morning (a.k.a. I can’t sleep because my mind is racing), I searched and searched and then researched and read and read some more and  then I did the following:  I booked a flight to Rome (because Naples was more expensive) so reasonably I was jumping up and down at my desk.  Then through Facebook, I communicated with the owner of a B&B in Guardia Sanframondi, in Campania Italy.  I checked out whether we should train it to the village from Rome but realized it would be best to rent a car so we could drive around once there.  So I went online and rented one, you have to love the internet.

But why Guardia Sanframondi you ask?  Well, last year I saw a segment of Sunday Morning that featured this town as a place many Americans were buying homes in this medieval town – I was intrigued.  Then I found out that Guardia was within an hour’s driving distance to Mirrabello di Santico which is the village my paternal grandfather was born and raised till at age of 16, he took off for America.  Mirrabello di Santico is in the province of Molise.  Several years ago, my cousin Kathi did extensive genealogical research and during the Christmas holiday, she showed me many of the documents she had uncovered.  Since no one is still alive who would know the history, things seemed a bit confusing. My cousin said the family came from Mirrabello, my grandfather used to refer to Naples, my grandmother said her family was from the province of Abruzzo but we believe it was Salerno, my father often told me I must be Calabrese (a slur referring to my being stubborn), and to that add the fact that over the years, some of the borders of those provinces blurred.  This landmark birthday was the perfect time to find my roots.

The Provinces of Italy

We’re Basically In The RED

Over the next couple of months I corresponded with my soon-to-be host, Pasquale Orso.  Pasquale owns a B&B, La Tana dell’ Orso, http://www.bborso.com/ but more about him later.  I began my compulsive organizing, much list-making, reading blogs and printing out reams of information: directions, maps, reservation confirmations, airline confirmations,  house rules for the Airbnb (where we would stay in Rome), airport information as well as several pages of family genealogical information and a letter from my grandfather to his mother which I hoped to have translated.  I also made arrangements for a friend to stay in our apartment and take care of our cats for a few days and hired Edith, a cat sitter and friend, to feed and care for Nick and Nora once our friend left.  Additionally keys were designated for both parties, the doorman notified, and the Super agreed to move our car to accommodate New York City’s alternate side parking rules.  Whew!  

Monday evening May 15th was D-Day (Departure date) and in the days prior, clothes were ironed and laid out all over the apartment.  The night before I folded everything with tissue paper and packed my shirts and pants in these great plastic  packing bags my sister-in-law, Juanita gave me.  The next morning I insisted on washing my hair and then packed last minute make-up etc.. Of course being true to myself, I also dusted the bedroom, put clean sheets on the bed, laid out fresh towels for my house guest and put a new bar of soap in the shower.  

We are almost ready to leave – Peter said we should leave about 2:30pm.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:20pm.  I took the airline confirmations out of the folder they were in and tried to reach the airline to see if we could change our seats.  That exercise went nowhere after about 15 minutes of wait time.   I had hard-boiled eggs to eat on the plane, packed some carrots and tarelli (Italian biscuits) and packed them into my handbag.  I made it a point to take a handbag that would be large enough to hold my Kindle, my iPad and the folders of information I collected.

Tarelli

Tarelli – photo “borrowed” from Wildeastblog.com

As the clock creeped towards 3:00pm I flew into my crazy-we-got-to-go mode, barking orders to Peter and lamenting over the fact that we would not be able to greet Jade, our friend who would stay in the apartment.  Kiss the cats, grab the suitcases  and lock the door.  As it happened we met Jade coming out of the elevator as we were going down.  Quick hug and kiss, we GOT TO GO!  In the lobby the doorman stops me before I can go out and hail a taxi.  It seems I forgot to complete a form notifying the building that I have a house guest who has my permission and key to come and go.  Peter has found the mailman who was still in the building and asks him to give our mail to the front desk.

We are off!!!  And if you are wondering why I went into such great detail about my preparations, just wait till you read on.

                                                                                                  to be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday Is Prince Sphaghetti Day

Wednesday Is Prince Sphaghetti Day

I probably should have saved this for ThrowBack Thursday, I mean who remembers Prince spaghetti?  Growing up in an Italian family, I certainly do remember the macaroni products we had in our home.  My father did buy Prince spaghetti, however I clearly remember the LaRosa brand boxes of shells and I think the family favorite was Ronzoni.   When I was a young married, I always stuck with Ronzoni and because I saw my parents pour the pasta out of the pot and into a colander and then rinse it, I did the same!  I can’t remember now when I learned that was definitely NOT the thing to do!  Rinsing the pasta removes some of its flavorful starch that was released during the cooking process.  Not only do I NOT rinse my pasta, I often save a cup of the water to add to my sauces.  Specifically the pasta water is used in many of my vegetarian pasta dishes to make a thin sauce that may also have some broth, butter or oil.

Look For The Red Rose

Look For The Red Rose

What do I buy now?  I love the taste of Barilla macaroni products although so many of my Italian friends swear by De Cecco.  So recently, I purchased some De Cecco linguine and I swear it didn’t have the same flavor.  De Cecco is made in Italy so I’ll give it a few more tries and see if I like the results.

This Wednesday, even though it is STILL raw and cold outside, not to mention raining,  I thought I would try welcoming Spring into the apartment with a truly Spring-like pasta dish.  To quote Pure Wow , the site where I found this recipe by Erin McDowell; “We had a good run, soups and stews.  But as temperatures rise and flowers bloom, we’re ready to swap rich and hearty for light and fresh”.

PASTA WITH PEAS, ARTICHOKES, LEMON AND MINT

Serves 4-6  Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb bucatini, spaghetti or other long pasta

1 1/2 cups fresh peas

12 marinated artichoke heart quarters, drained

3 TBS unsalted butter

1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese

2 TBS lemon juice

Salt

2 TBS freshly chopped mint for garnish

Lemon zest for garnish

Directions

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water, cook till pasta is al dente, 6-8 minutes (or according to package instructions). One minute before pasta is done, add the peas to the pot.  Before draining, ladle out and reserve 1 cup pasta water. 

Drain pasta and peas in colander and immediately add artichoke hearts.  Toss to combine.  

Return pasta and vegetables to the pot, then add the butter and Pecorino cheese, and toss to coat.  Add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water to and the lemon juice, and continue tossing until the mixture forms a creamy coating.  Add additional water if needed.  Season with salt to taste.

To serve, transfer pasta to plates, and top with mint, lemon zest and black pepper.

Pasta Peas & Artichokes

Pasta Peas & Artichokes

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Ambrose Lightship, South Street Seaport, Manha...

Ambrose Lightship, South Street Seaport, Manhattan, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thursday’s Top Ten

The following is a sardonic bordering on sarcastic list of things we New Yorkers feel the need to explain to the visitors, tourists and out of towers who venture into our metropolis!   This list goes beyond my byline of “Oops I bit my tongue in chic”;  I gleaned this information from Thrillst NY. Some things just have to be ‘splained!

  1. We don’t call it “The Big Apple”, “New York” or even “NYC” – It’s The City.
  2. Everybody jaywalks – Go ahead, don’t be afraid, chances are you won’t get hit.
  3. The Italian food in Little Italy sucks – Probably because hardly any Italians live there.
  4. Cabbies don’t take advantage of tourists – They take advantage of ANYONE who doesn’t pay attention.  The answer to “Do you want to take the FDR”? is always NO.
  5. YES, it’s always this loud and NO it doesn’t bother us – For the love of God, stop covering your ears every time a subway screeches or an ambulance goes by.
  6. You have to walk faster than that – We don’t have highways, we have sidewalks.  Would you stop dead in the middle of the Interstate to take a photo of some random tall building? No? Then sweet Jesus don’t do it here.
  7. South Street Seaport is totally irrelevant – We don’t set foot on this anachronistic hell-dock unless we’re going to Beekman’s Beer Garden.  Even then we go in the back entrance to avoid the crowds of people taking photos of the man o’ war.
  8. The streets are short, the avenues are long and it’s a grid – Unless you’re in the West Village; that place is essentially a maze.
  9. That annoying TV in the back of the cab – You can turn it off, and if the credit card swipe below it doesn’t work, use the one above it.
  10. Our bars close at 4 am every nightNone of this 1 am or 2 am nonsense or “4 am on Saturdays only” – We booze it up every night till 4 am and still make it to brunch then next day.

A shout-out to Gail, who is my constant resource for  funny, weird, bizarre, interesting, and informative articles.  This one from Thrillist was a doozy!

 

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Tasty Tidbits Tuesday

Tonight I’m making a delicious, light and heart-healthy vegetarian meal.  We both love pasta and I especially am happy when I can make a pasta dish with veggies and is easy to toss together – it makes me feel so much more Italian 🙂  My grandfather who was born in Italy always used to say that having meat in your macaroni or spaghetti (there is a redundancy here but that’s how Americans speak) was a special occasion or a Sunday dinner.

So here’s my Tasty Tidbits Tuesday recipe:

12 oz (3/4 box) linguine

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4  cup pignoli (pine nuts)

4 cloves of garlic sliced

2 lb. asparagus trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces

1 cup (3 oz) shaved Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta, reserve a 1/2 cup pasta water, drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat oil in medium skillet over MEDIUM HIGH heat.  Add pine nuts and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 1-2 minutes.  Add the asparagus and cook, tossing occasionally, until just tender, 2-3 minutes.

Add the asparagus mixture to the pasta along with a 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and toss to combine. *if pasta seems too dry, add a little pasta water to form thin sauce). Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan before serving.

Recipe from Real Simple magazine

Real Simple recipe, heart healthy, pasta with veggies, asparagus, Parmensan, linguine

Heart Healthy Linguine with Asparagus

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Amanda Seyfried is a very pretty up and coming actress – her looks are compelling.

Chloe, Sophie, Letters to Juliet, enhanced lips, luscious lips, actress, Amanda Seyfried
The Lovely Amanda

Peter thinks she’s beautiful so I always tell him that her lips are enhanced!  Well that’s just catty chit chat.  Anyway, Amanda was the protagonist in the  eponymous movie, Chloe where she played a sinister (my word) seductress.  Personally I thought she was evil and the movie was part Fatal Attraction and part True Lies.  Chloe was a calculating, unfeeling to the point of being robotic,  sociopath.  Spoiler – she gets hers in the end. Two weeks later we are watching the same doe-eyed luscious-lipped Amanda portraying Sophie in Letters to Juliet. Sophie is the ultimate eternal romanticist.  She is sweet, cloyingly adorable and an idealist in the romance department.  A very sweet romantic comedy and again she gets hers in the end. You would think that these two movies are poles apart but for some nagging reason,  I kept seeing parallels in the roles.  In both roles Amanda  shows us  a range of facial expressions; with her eyes as the windows into her heart and soul, she is wistful and waifish, her pouty mouth playing a big role.

Although this blog was basically about Amanda in her two recent starring roles, I want to point out that Vanessa Redgrave is in Letters to Juliet and although she is not starring in the main role, it is difficult to cast her as the supporting actress in this movie.  Her presence on the screen is nothing short of phenomenal – she is the focal point of every scene she’s in.   What a great role for her! AND for all you romanticists out there  who are now of a certain age, note this – Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero are a real life couple.

Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, Franco Nero, Letters to Juliet, Tuscany

It's Never Too Late For True Love

It was a poignant evening watching Vanessa’s magnificent performance one day after her sister, Lynn Redgrave passed away. Vanessa is the sole surviving member of the super talented Redgrave family.  This year, her brother Corin, also an actor, died as well.

Go see it! It’s heartwarming, sappy, funny, predictable and will make you cry happy tears and believe in true love.

Vanessa Redgrave, Amanda Seyfried, Letters to Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Verona, Tuscany

Letters to Juliet

Best Quote: “I don’t think my grandmother would at all be interested in meeting someone who used ‘awesome’ and ‘oh my God’ in the same sentence. That was said by Christopher Egan who looks a lot like a young Val Kilmer.

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