Posted in Italy, Living abroad, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Orvieto Italy, Rome, San Francisco, Travel, Travel to Italy, Uncategorized | Tagged Amore di Mamma, Orvieto, orvieto italy, Rome | 20 Comments »
From the time I was old enough to speak, I was a reluctant crusader against the relentless ignorance over the gender-bending name my parents assigned me at birth. 1960s Madison Avenue provided only one example to refer to when enlightening people on how to accurately write the girl-version diminutive of Anthony. “It’s spelled with an “i” instead of a “y”, you know, like Toni, The Home Permanent.” I grew weary of the discourse and confusion about my androgynous moniker and envied girls appropriately named Mary, Cindy, or Barbara.
As I reached adulthood, the naming world evolved and it appeared the heat was finally off women with “men’s names”. Thanks to Oprah’s Book Club, Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison became a household name and songbird Toni Braxton was a sexy girl-named-Toni babe. Things were looking up in the given name department…until I moved to Italy.
“Mi Chiamo Toni.” Oh, hell, here we go again.
Posted in Orvieto, Orvieto Italy, Travel to Italy | Tagged expat in Italy, Living in Itay, Oprah, Oprah's Book Club, Orvieto, orvieto italy, Toni Braxton, Toni Morrison, Travel to Italy | 7 Comments »
I snapped this photo of a smiling dumpster a few years back and thought to myself, “If a dumpster can be happy, why can’t we?”
For me happiness is like an AutoGrill on the Italian Autostrada: A pit stop on the road of life. You can pull in, park, take a coffee and hang out for a while but you aren’t permitted to set up camp. At some point you must get back into your vehicle and continue down the highway. Do you grumble as you get into your car, waiting and hoping to come across another AutoGrill soon?
When will we get it? Life is speeding past us like the scenery out our windshields. We have to run across the parking lot, jump back into our cars, roll down the windows, crank up the radio and sing at the top of our lungs to bad pop songs.
Life is short. Be the dumpster.
I am very lucky to be included in your circle of friends. Because of the distance between us we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, but when we meet it’s as if no time passes – we just pick up right where we left off. I know what a rare and special gift this is.
I lit a candle for you today. It burns brightly for happy memories, solidarity, friendship, peace and, most of all, love.
Just a few kilometers outside the center of Orvieto there’s an area known as Localita’ Ponte del Sole. Drive slowly on the winding road and be careful not to blink or you might miss it: A small hand painted sign with the words “Risto-Pizzeria da Zia Graziella” nailed to a tree. The arrow points you down a white road that leads to a clearing…you’ve arrived at Zia Graziella’s place.
At first it might seem a bit unorthodox to find a pizzeria operating out of a private farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. However, when you consider that Italy is a country where food is one of its greatest sources of pride and cuisine part of its national identity, a speakeasy-style establishment thriving on a word-of-mouth reputation makes perfect sense.
Chef Zia Graziella has been creating pasta dough for over thirty-five years – first as the proprietor of a fresh, homemade pasta shop in the historical center and now as a highly regarded, wood-fired pizza cook. What makes her famous dough so extraordinary is that each batch is produced from an eighty-year old “mother” starter that she rolls out to a paper-thin consistency. Her recipe uses no oil and toppings are made with only the freshest ingredients picked from her garden or gathered from local area farms.
The price for a pizza dinner is fixed but the menu is fluid and dictated by the growing season. The meal includes antipasti, three or four different kinds of pizzas, dessert, wine, and coffee. Tonight, for example, we dined on Pizza Margherita (fresh tomato and mozzarella), Pizza with Fennel, Potato and Spicy Salami, and finally, Eggplant, Mozzarella and Tomato pizza.
The pizza flows like the nearby Tiber and can be stopped by leaving at least one slice on the platter – a signal to the kitchen that you’ve finished with the main course and are ready for dessert: a Pizza Nutella. I think it was somewhere between the coffee service and the pouring of Limoncello that I slipped into a Graziella-induced coma.
Honestly, I’d love to tell you that this amazing, one-of-a-kind restaurant is the best-kept secret in Umbria, but I’d be lying. Everyone knows the charming and talented Graziella: Martin Scorsese claims her gnocchi is the best he’s ever eaten and Richard Gere has her on speed dial. Not a VIP? Don’t worry – when you eat at Risto-Pizzeria da Zia Graziella, you’re more than just a celebrity, you’re family.
Risto-Pizzeria da Zia Graziella, Localita’ Ponte Del Sole, 38, Orvieto, Italy 05018, +39 389 792 5102
Shortly after arriving in Italy, I accepted an invitation to a book signing and reading event in Rome. When I learned of the book’s subject matter (a thirty-something woman who finds love with an Italian and moves to Rome) I thought, “Oh, no, not another fairy tale about coming to Italy, having an affair with Marcello Mastroianni and living happily ever after!” Needless to say I was skeptical. Seriously, is there anyone out there who could bring freshness to this tired and overly-saturated genre of storybook fantasies alla Three Coins in a Fountain, Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love? I know I sound jaded – my expectations were low.
After a brief introduction, author Estelle Jobson sat down on a cushion in the courtyard of The Beehive Hotel, opened her book, Finding Rome on the Map of Love, and began to read. As I listened to her recount the stories, I noticed the corners of my mouth began to spontaneously turn upward. Her elegant and proper South African accent was in sharp contrast to the wry, sardonic, and sassy repartee. Hey, this girl gets it! When she finished I was a bit sad, but fortunately I’d purchased my very own autographed copy of the book and immediately cracked it open on the train back to Orvieto.
During the first couple of chapters, I was gulping down Estelle’s pages the way a typical American might eat their dinner – swallowing without taking time to taste. Perhaps I’ve been in Italy long enough that a voice in my head warned, “Don’t be in a hurry – savor each flavor and texture”. This book was just like a good Italian meal – I never wanted the literary feast to end, but when it did I felt warm and utterly satisfied.
Estelle Jobson is a talented writer who has a true gift for observation; describing things as an expatriate I’d experienced but was never able to fully articulate. I think what I appreciated the most about Estelle’s storytelling is that she doesn’t laugh at Italians, she laughs with them. Her book is filled with intelligent humor, compassion, and edgy insight. She is sarcastic without being mean; clever without being pretentious; and emotional without being too sentimental. Estelle sees Italians the way they really are and reconfirms, at least for me, why I love living among them.
I’ll stay with the food analogy for just a little bit longer to say that I really enjoyed chewing slowly on every single delicious “bite” of Finding Rome on the Map of Love – her words were proprio buonissime!
You can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find her and her book on Facebook
ebook on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Rome-Map-Love-ebook/dp/B009HBLYYO/
Online extract here: http://italianintrigues.blogspot.ch/2012/10/the-socialization-of-italian-man.html
Posted in Expat in Italy, Italian Culture, Italians, Italy, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Orvieto Italy, Rome, writing | Tagged Amazon, Duomo di Orvieto, Eat Pray Love, Ebook, Estelle Jobson, Finding Rome on the Map of Love, Orvieto, orvieto italy, Rome, The Beehive Hotel, Three Coins in a Fountain, Toni DeBella, Under the Tuscan Sun | 17 Comments »
Yes, I know you’ve seen this post before….but it’s Umbria Jazz Winter #20, so I’m updating the line-up and reminding everyone that there’s a 5-day party going on in Orvieto!
Like scrappy, bebopping Pied Pipers, Perugia’s popular street band Funk Off gets this party started with a nightly parade that snakes through Orvieto’s narrow and ancient cobblestone alleyways. Music lovers, young and old, scamper and skip behind these energetic hipsters as their infectious beat draws more and more followers along the route. The bluesy procession ends with an impromptu jam session in the Piazza della Repubblica, where you’ll find you can’t help but tap your feet, move your body and smile: It’s Umbria Jazz Winter #20 and “baby, it’s cold outside”.
The international flavor and welcoming spirit amidst the holiday lights and chilly, frigid temperatures creates a unique atmosphere that makes this festival something special. For five nights, starting from December 28 to January 1, Jazz fans flock from all over Italy and beyond to partake in the music and brotherhood for which this festival has become world renowned. Performing on stage this year: Gregory Porter Septet, Dee Alexander & Evolution Ensemble, Tomeka Reid, Nicole Mitchell, Gary Brown & Feelings, Giovanni Tommaso Reunion Quintet, John Batiste, and many more.
2012 goes out with a bang! Capodanno is celebrated in the Piazza del Popolo at midnight, ringing in the New Year with a fireworks display and free outdoor concert. On New Year’s Day arrive at the famous Duomo early to secure your spot for the first Mass of 2013. Inside this majestic Cathedral you’ll witness something you don’t see every day; hymns sung at a Roman Catholic “Mass for Peace and Gospel” by Dr. Bobby Jones and the Nashville Gospel Superchoir. Hold onto your seats because this joint will be jumpin’!
For more information about the festival go to: http://www.umbriajazz.com/Home.aspx
SEE YOUTUBE VIDEO OF FUNK OFF HERE:
Posted in Festivals in Italy, Festivals in Umbria, Italy, Orvieto, Travel, Umbria | Tagged arts, Capodanno, Dr. Bobby Jones & The Nashville Gospel Superchoir, Funk Off, Jazz in Orvieto, Orvieto, roman catholic mass, Umbria Jazz Winter | 7 Comments »