Monday, February 20, 2012

The Sun and I

Italy's long lasting effect on me includes my now insatiable need for a hit of strong sun with my feet nuzzled into sand and salt left on my lips, at least once a year. In Italy it's something almost every family does each August. It's not only for those with extra $ in their pockets. The beaches that line the coasts of Italy are packed to the fullest with extended families, young couples, groups of friends, all being rejuvenated, with the clear blue sea at one side, the bluest sky above, and a bar for coffees, panini, and ice cream only several steps away. I was so lucky to have this every August, at least for a few days, and it always was a restart for me. The crowds were a little overwhelming, but still, the chance to enjoy life stopping in such a sensory, mind/body way for me was well worth it. Pier and I are celebrating our ten year anniversary this year and if all works out right we are headed to Charleston, SC. So far it's the closest thing to the Italian experience that we've discovered here in the US on the east coast within reasonable travel range from upstate NY. I'm curious if others on the east coast can suggest places of refuge to us to also consider?

Friday, January 27, 2012


It's been a while since I've posted.  Most likely it's because we did yet another move again...this time to Rochester, NY, which is in my opinion a huge improvement from Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh isn't a bad place, it's just too hilly, with rivers and tunnels that cause all sorts of traffic congestion that was sometimes similar to the traffic of Rome.  Hard to believe, but true!  Rochester is calm, with Lake Ontario, the Adirondacks, Finger Lakes, Thousand Islands and Canada all nearby.  I like.
I do think folks in Pittsburgh and Rochester really are nice and friendly for the most part. I still have the longing to give kisses and hugs when meeting and leaving, and so I'm there kind of awkward, or maybe the person I'm talking to is there kind of awkward because they sense me being awkward, oh who knows.  I miss the closeness of saying hello and goodbye to people.
In general it seems there is a controlled approach to relating here.  It's not that people are rude in general, because they aren't.  It's just it's a longer road to being able to really reach someone.
I miss relating in an open way like I experienced in Rome.  People who were strangers were friends after a few moments.  I suspect that having piazzas, common spaces, local businesses and condos where people pass each other and interact on a daily basis makes a big difference.  I think also having life be a little crazy and unpredictable and not always easy can make people seem a little more down to earth because they are used to things not always going their way.  Americans in general can be really spoiled.  I see on a daily basis people who get so impatient for having to wait on a line for just a little too long.  Or if they are too hot, or too cold...it is like folks have become sensitized to only their needs and so don't have the capability anymore to relate to others.
Is that it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

I left my heart in Sperlonga

For most of us who have been fortunate to visit or live in Italy, there are the wonderful cities of Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, Naples.  They all have their own special qualities, their own nuttiness, idiosyncracies and uniqueness.  I've never been to Milan, and to be honest for me Florence was over-rated, crawling with tourists and over-priced places. The best memory I have of Naples is an entire family riding one motorino, with a week's worth of groceries and a dog.  In the background was the looming Vesuvius, the chit-chat of people going of markets, and the dramatic sea sploshing against the sides of the city.  Naples has the marvelous presepi markets, the best pizza in the world (go to fratelli la bufala, among other places), and the most insane driving I've ever seen.  One-way streets are meant for two-way traffic, red lights really are mere suggestions. Memories of Venice are a fantastic little osteria called La Zucca, the zig-zags of the streets without cars that make for great chases with young kids, and looking for any trace of Vivaldi (which surprisingly are non-existant or really really hard to find).  I also remember wanting to trace the steps of the characters from the film Pane e Tulipani, a film absolutely worth seeing that is one of those heart-wrenching love stories but without the cheese and will make you want to play accordion.

Living in Rome for eight years I have so many memories, which are more about actually living -- and that makes for a whole different kind of memories.  I loved Rome, really.  Mostly I loved eating in Rome at places like Paino's near Piazza Navona for the best pizza in town, and at Sora Lella for lunches, and any bar for a good cappuccino or macchiato. It's a marvelous city, could be the best on earth if it were just less chaotic.  But I think what I enjoyed the most was when we packed our car with beach chairs, suitcases filled with bathing suits, towels and sunblock, and we drove two hours south to Sperlonga, which for me is heaven on earth.

Sperlonga has an old part which hangs off the cliffs above the gorgeously clean and passionate sea, houses looking like they are stacked on top of one another with narrow alleys and mazes, steps that bring you here and there, with laundry hanging from ropes above you, ripe tomato plants and flowers decorating the white-washed walls of each house.  The smell of the sea is so prominent here, and the breeziness of the place combined with the strong sun gives everyone a glorious color and smiles all around.

Walk the beach to the former Villa of Tiberius, with happy fish still making their home in the pools left by the Roman emperor.  There is a museum worth visiting, you can get some ideas of the emperor's villa and what it was like, and you can nap on the grass in the sun where Tiberius surely enjoyed a few moments too.

Eat at L'Angolo, particularly for lunch.
Sit outside.  Let your kids play with other kids soaking in the sun, and help yourself to any of the seafood dishes, they are amazing.

Then climb the steps to the old city and get a bomba calda at the corner shop that also sells ice cream.  Look in the picture below.  Go all the way down to the end of the shops and on the right side there is the best place in Sperlonga for bombe calde.  You can get them without anything inside, or with cream or nutella. Ummmmm.....Then sit in the piazza in the middle of the old town, if you have kids let them run around and burn off the sugar with other kids.

A good place to stay is Hotel Major.  They've got great food for breakfast and dinner and is in the newer part of town, close to the beach and the basketball court.  It's perfect if you have kids.  If you want to stay in the old part, rent an apartment.

When Luca is feeling homesick for Italy, he remembers Sperlonga, and so do we.  The cities aren't what captured our hearts, it's places like Sperlonga.  It's a gem.