Molto Amore

Taking my kids to Italy for the first time, and my first time back in over 25 years.  Travelling with my awesome sister and her family makes it even better.  Rome, Venice, Florence, and Puglia- here we come!

Where It All Began

Our last full day in Italy was a really unique one.  On the last trip to see my dad before he died, he told me of the tiny town in Italy where the Civetta’s had immigrated from in the late 1880s.  We immediately pulled it up on my phone (complete with 360 degree camera view), and he told me stories of visiting it only once when he graduated from high school.  Since the town was sort of between Puglia and Rome, Nancy and I really wanted to see it for ourselves.  So we got up and drove back through the gorgeous Italian countryside – Eli, at one point, remarked that it looked like Catan, for those of you who know the game.

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Bellizi Irpino is just outside of Avelino (close to Napoli).  We wandered along this amazingly beautiful street with a mix of buildings from across the decades (some from when my ancestors would have been there).

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We found a cemetery, but it didn’t go back to the time.when Civettas were still around.  As you can see it was really beautiful, and it was very powerful to walk streets of my family.

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We took some pictures that include all surviving Civettas (or at least people with Civetta as a last name!).

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We also discovered the likely link to the Civetta sense of humor.  We saw this sign posted, which Nancy roughly translated as:We hope that dogs will not leave little pictures of their owners on the street.  Little pictures of their owners, of course, referred to their poop – Dad would be proud!

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It was a great visit, and then we continued on to Rome.  We spent our last night in Fiomicino, a beach town right by the airport.  We watched an amazing sunset together.

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We shared one final meal together and laughed at all of our adventures.  We even joined in singing Happy Borthday to the table next to us!

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We all agreed that Humpty had the best trip of any of us, but he got a bit drunk after we talked of his now long lost love, Alice!

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We got one last gelato, and Sophie even ordered herself in Italian (although she would forget her purse there creating some last minute worry – luckily, Nik saved the day).

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Here is our final picture of the trip!

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It was an amazing one!  My goal for this trip was to make my kids love Italy – mission accomplished!

All About That Vespa!

So, ever since the kids got scooter rides in Florence, they have been looking for more.  Eli even got on my computer to look up places to rent them in Puglia, so today that was our adventure.  We swung by the house and got Wayne, Tom, and Wendy to join us, and we drove on to Galipolli.

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We picked up the scooters, but for some reason they were all on empty.  So our first trip was to the gas station, and that is where things took a turn.  Tom apparently didn’t hear the store guys tell us which fuel to use, so it filled his and Wayne’s with diesel.  They didn’t even make it out of the station before they died.  Nancy had to explain complex things to Tom.

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The guys back at the shop were not happy, and they didn’t have any other scooters for us to use.  Plan B was Wayne, Tom, and Wendy following us in one of our cars as we explored the area.

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We explored all over the place along the coast.  I rode with Eli, Sophie and Nancy, and Nik and Houston.  It was a really great time.  We stopped at a little beach cafe for lunch.

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And Tom became so captivated by Humpty that he did a test shoot for his next movie!

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Humpty even joined a foosball team!

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Later, we headed back to the big villa.  The kids swam in the pool, and we all hung out with everyone.  Nancy, Nik, and Houston went off to have a family night together, and the kids and I stayed for pizza night at the big villa.  There was a big outdoor pizza oven, and they brought the guy who built it to cook pizzas (endless, endless amounts of amazing pizza).

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Later, we played a little foosball of our own.  In the most important game, Buzz and I were victorious against Tommy and Eli, but after that Tommy and Eli turned into the Dream Team, blitzing everybody (although they can never take our victory away from us).  I think Tommy is going to be a bad influence on Eli, as their celebrating got a bit out of hand!

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The evening went on late, as we all sat around sharing stories and laughter (the kids found a projection tv inside and watched a move- thanks, Michael for getting them set up, as I clearly abandoned them).  In a trip full of special, amazing memories, it was really great to reconnect with so many of my best friends.  I love you all!




New Fun and New Friends

Ah, the relaxing beach life.  I did some snorkeling today, although the surf got a bit rough for me and I needed a rescue!

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I made a new friend at the beach.  It is nice to meet someone closer to my size!

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Later, it got a little wacky when we met up at the party villa.  I think Buzz was trying to get me drunk!

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Wayne is mad in this picture because everyone agreed that I am more sexy than he is.

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Yeah, not sure what happened here, but it was good night!

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Life in Puglia

We got a really late start to our day (after such a long travel experience).  Nancy and Nik went to a local market and brought home a wonderful ton of fruits and pastries for breakfast, and we had a lovely breakfast at our villa.

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Next, we headed over to the Fleabag/Nightmare villa, and we all headed out to the old fortified city of Galipoli.  It was so beautiful.  Nancy, Nik, and the kids went to the beach, and I strolled around town with my peeps, catching up on life.

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I joined the family back on the beach and went swimming for a while, while the other crew went back to their place.  The plan was for me to drive back to our place.  I would shower and change and then go to their villa to hang out and have dinner.  Nancy and the gang would stay at the beach through sunset, eat in old Galipoli, and maybe come meet us at their villa.  That plan didn’t work.  It didn’t work because I got really lost and couldn’t find my way back home.  I did, however, find the other villa, so shower be damned, I just stayed with my friends.  We had an amazing evening full of laughter and stories.  Tom and Wendy arrived to complete the group, and we even had birthday cake.  [They are MUCH older than, so they were all celebrating their 50th, which was the premise of the trip.]

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Meanwhile, the kids had a great time at the beach.  They met a dog that apparently comes to the beach every day on its own and then returns to its home.  They had a great, albeit slow, dinner, and come to save me from my direction challenged self.  Another great day.

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Ciao, Firenze; Hello, the entire country of Italy!

We had one more magical day in Florence- Nancy’s birthday!  In the “morning,” we got up and had breakfast with Robby (who kept it open just for us).  Lizzie came as well, and it was great to see her.

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Then, the kids and I went to Ponte Vecchio, while Nancy and Nik went to the Da Vinci exhibit.

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The separation worked out well, as it gave us time to search for a present for Nancy.  We got her a necklace pendant of the symbol of Florence.  It was fun to walk back and forth across the bridge looking at all the beautiful jewelry shops.  Sophie particularly enjoyed all the sparkle!

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Eli also found a tie store that Simeon recommended, and he bought himself a really nice tie (Simeon, you will be proud).  We met up with Louise and Meredith on the bridge, and then strolled back towards the hotel for a lovely lunch.  Robby told us it had the best lasagna in the world, and it definitely did not disappoint.

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We did some packing afterwards, and then the whole group of us journeyed back to the banks of the river Arno.  It was like an outdoor club (complete with VIP section for Nancy’s birthday).  They had an all you can eat buffet (do NOT think Golden Corral) plus a DJ.  Whole bunches of Nancy’s friends arrived, and we had a great night.

One of the best parts of this trip has been reconnecting with people that I knew almost 30 years ago.  I definitely hadn’t kept up with my Italian, so I didn’t expect to be able to communicate much on this trip.  However, two lovely things happened.  One, I have been surprised at how much my Italian has come back to me.  I certainly can’t speak sentences, but a lot of the time I can follow conversations and understand people in shops, etc.  So with my mix of broken Italian and quality gesticulation, I have found myself able to communicate much more than I thought.  Two, Italians are the best.  All of these people that I knew when I was in my early 20s have treated me like a close, long lost friend.  The genuine care that I have felt from them has been so wonderful.  They are warm and generous and fun and still playful after all of these years.  It has really made this trip far more than about tourist shops and ancient sites – it has [once again] been about the amazing people of Italy (particularly Florence).

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Here are Sophie and Alessia toasting her [hopeful] trip to see us in Evanston later this summer!

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It was a great evening, and Humpty got in on the action.  He took over as DJ for a while, and even cut up the dance floor with Sophie (housequake!).

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We headed back into the city center and said goodbye to Louise and Meredith – so great to reconnect with them as well.  We were up early the next day to pick up rental cars and head to Puglia.  A bunch of my old BC friends were planning a trip, and I cajoled them to go to go to Italy (so I could mush the two trips together).  They rented a villa in Puglia (far south, heel of the boot of Italy).  It basically meant driving across the entire country of Italy!  We crossed over to Bologna, and then headed down the Adriatic coast.  It was an incredibly beautiful journey with little towns popping up along the coast and endless vineyards.  We even caught the end of the Italian victory in EuroCup against Spain at a gas station.  At the end of the trip, our directions got a bit sketchy, and it ended up taking us longer to get to our place.  I got pretty tired (11 hrs of driving), and the kids were usually asleep or watching a movie.  Luckily, I always had company!

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It is beautiful, set back in a grove of trees- a real country villa!  The owners were nice enough to lead us to the BC villa (which is great because there is no way we would have found it otherwise), so we ended the day with a great dinner with great friends. (No pics as I left the camera in the house.)


Rolling and riding…

I got a little bored with walking every where today, so I decided to take this little car out for a spin.

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In truth, I was searching for my dear Alice.  Sigh.  Later on, we went to see the David.  I have to say, I find all the nudity a bit disturbing.  Maybe it is because my clothes are sewed on, but cover up, fella!

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Later, Alessia gave me a ride on her scooter.

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I even got my own helmet for the trip back with Fabio!  Living the life!

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More glorious Florence (and more glorious Italians)

We had another wonderful day and an even better evening.  We got up earlier and had a great breakfast at the hotel.  Then, we headed to the big central market, where we picked up lots of goodies including leather jackets for me and Eli!

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We met up with Louise and Meredith and headed to a lovely lunch near Ponte Vecchio.  Afterwards we went to the Duomo where the kids all lit candles for special prayers.

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Next, we went to see Michelangelo’s David.  Almost as amazing are his unfinished sculptures, where it appears like the people are emerging from the stone.

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Then, we took a bus to Nancy’s good friends’ house: Lola and Fabio (Alessia’s parents).  They took us to this outdoor cafe with food trucks.  We had fried fish and all sat around laughing and talking.  The kids even got to ride on the back of their scooters (and now are obsessed with us getting one for Evanston).  Alessia even let Sophie drive hers!  It was a great evening to be with friends and outside of the typical tourist areas.  We were just surrounded by Florentine’s enjoying a beautiful summer night.  We were also working hard on trying to get Alessia to come to Evanston to work as a counselor at theater camp.  She is studying early childhood education, and it would be so much fun to have her stay with us for a week!

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Another great day!

Forza Azzurri!

I am truly becoming Italian now.  For my whole life, people have made fun of my blue jacket, but suddenly I fit in perfectly.  When everyone else had to go buy blue shirts, I was already fully azzurri!

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We climbed to the top of the Bell Tower and had a beautiful view of the Duomo, but be careful where you walk when you are my size!

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That was a close one!

Calcio Storico di Fiorentino is sport the way it should be.  We are working on posting the video with me making friends in the stands!  Eventually, I could contain my passion no longer, and I hoped the fence to join the game – pico, azzurri!  See if you can find me pummeling one of the biancis in the back!

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We may have lost, but the warriors and I fauht the good fight!

Nothing like it!

Today was the Feast of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence, and the highlight of it is the historical soccer match called calcio in costume.  It dates back to 1530 when the 4 churches banded together to repel a siege of the city.  Ever since, they celebrate the victory by having battles between the four churches with lots of pageantry (and even more violence).  Nancy got us all shirts for our precious blue team!

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However, the big issue for us was getting tickets, which are incredibly hard to get, but not everyone has Nancy!  Since she knows everyone (and does pr for a living), she was single minded in her pursuit of tickets all day.  In the morning, we only had one.  Morning may be a bit of a stretch, as we had a sleep in day after so many long nights.  We met up with Louise and Merry and went to climb the Bell Tower (very steep but well worth it).

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Then, Nancy broke off to work her ticket magic, while wandered about doing some shopping here and there before grabbing a lunch.  It was powerfully hot again today, so we found a shaded restaurant with those cooling misters.  Then, we walked over to where everyone was lining for the parade/procession through the city.  Nancy appeared, and she had scored 3 more tickets!  Louise and Merry broke off to do their own thing, and we headed over to the stadium at Santa Croce.  The plan was for Nik and the kids to use the tickets, and Nancy and I would find a way to sneak in.  As luck would have it, we ran into Boga’s son, who immediately got us in, so we actually beat the four who actually had tickets.

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We got a place with the mob of blue supporters, who were chanting and singing.

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The pre-game pageantry was pretty amazing (although a bit long for the boys), and then the game itself.  It is basically a huge sand pit and a ball and about 30 guys on each side.  You score by throwing the ball into nets along the back sections, but the real purpose is apparently just to beat the crap out of anyone and everyone you see.

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Before it even starts, people have paired off and start fighting.  Some of the strategy is to get have someone tackle and hold down the best players of the other team.

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So while the movement of the ball is kind of like rugby, there are piles of bodies littered everyone.  It is mayhem to the point where you often can’t find the ball.  And the violence is for real.  Some people got pummeled and blindsided- it can be hard to watch.  The Italians are all screaming for blood (as Nik said, it helps you understand how the gladiators were so popular- people like bloodsport).  However, there is clearly a camaraderie among the players, as once down in a pile, they will start chatting.  There are maybe a dozen doctors running around checking on people and bringing them water (and bandaging them up too).  The two fighting will stop, share some water (even a kiss on the head) and then go back to beating the crap out of each other.  A couple of guys got expelled, and I have no idea what you must do to get kicked out of a game that is already that violent (but it must be really, really bad).  A couple of guys were taken out on stretchers too.  In the end, it is actually really exciting and compelling to watch, even though our blues came up a half point short.  Still, what an experience!  If you are ever in Florence for the festival, you must find a way to go!

Afterwards, we wandered for gelato and headed for the fireworks by the river.

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We ended the day in an Irish pub getting dinner.

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Another great day!

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Dov’e Alice?

It was a quieter day today.  Apparently, I can tell a lie (but don’t believe it, Alice- I am true to you).

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I tried on a leather jacket to up my cool-ness factor, but it was a large.

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I had some great food that Nancy translated as fried string- trust me, it was better than that.

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But, alas, it was not the day I wished for, as I pined after my dear Alice.  I think I found her a nice bag, though!

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