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Lollo & Me

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It began almost a year ago. A man was visiting a mutual friend of mine in Orvieto and took a picture of an elegant, solitary gentleman sitting on the bench across from the Duomo. Several months later the photographer wrote to ask if I knew the gentleman’s name or how to contact him. He thought the man and his family might like to have a copy of the portrait.

Although I’d passed him many times on the street, I didn’t know him personally. Naturally, I turned to social media for help, posting the above photo on my Facebook page with the following caption:

“This is a beautiful photo shot by a friend while visiting Orvieto last spring. I have seen this man around town but I’ve never formally met him. Does anyone know him? If so, perhaps he might like to see his portrait – it’s stunning.”

Responses poured in.

Signor Lollo (affectionately known simply as “Lollo”) was a beloved mathematics professor at the high school. They say he is sweet and gentle and that I might find him walking along la confaloniera (the promenade on the edge of town) in the mornings. In any other circumstance I might have staked out the confaloniera at dawn, bounding up to him in my overly perky American style, but in this instance I thought better of it. Something told me he was a private person and maybe a bit shy as well.

It wasn’t long before fate stepped-in and I found myself alone on the street with Lollo walking towards me. I politely stopped him and asked if I could show him something? He said yes, so I pulled up the photo on my iPhone. “Carina, la foto”, he said and told me he had remembered the day it was taken. I asked if he had email, but of course he doesn’t. Then he said “Grazie, Cara”, turned and went on his way.

I’d been carrying around the 5 x 7 print in my purse for weeks, waiting to see Lollo again. Finally I spotted him down on the Corso and after greetings were exchanged, I handed him the beautiful photograph and said it was his to keep. He seemed pleased and touched by the gift.

Nowadays, whenever Lollo and I run into each other on our walks, we always stop and have a little chat. We’ve even developed a “secret handshake”.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the connection it formed with a stranger that turned into an unlikely friendship…priceless.

Photograph by Win Sargent

*Oops! Yesterday, I accidentally published the following Italy Book Tours review ahead of scheduled release and had to take it down from the site!  For the followers of this blog who got a erroneous notification, I apologize profusely!  Here it is….Italy Book Tour’s Review of Death Logs In….honest!

 

Death Logs In is the second book in E. J. Simon’s techno-thriller crime series. The first, Death Never Sleeps was published in 2013 and rose to #2 on Amazon Kindle as well as appeared on numerous bestseller lists in the U.S. and abroad. Initially self-published, Simon/Zef began publishing Death Never Sleeps after it moved over 80,000 copies in its first year.

Unfortunately, I was unable to read the first book in the series because both copies mailed to me never reached my home in Orvieto. Ahhh, the Italian postal service…talk about a shady organized crime syndicate!

Death Logs In book cover

“Some of the most powerful people in the world want to kill Michael Nicholas. Only his brother, Alex can save him – the problem is that Alex is dead. It’s been almost a year since Alex Nicholas, a Queens based underworld Boss, was gunned down. After Alex’s brutal murder, Michael inherited not only his brother’s business – but his enemies. Michael is now a key player in a world he once feared. By day, he is the head of a Fortune 500 company by night, the CEO of Tartarus, one of the worlds largest illegal gambling operations.” 

 

Review of Death Logs In….

Thrillers and crime novels aren’t really my thing, but I wanted to keep an open mind as I began reading E. J. Simon’s newest novel, Death Logs In

Death Logs In has all the makings of a great crime/mob thriller: Michael “Just when I though I was out, they pulled me back in” Nicholas is a reluctant gangster who was left to run his brother’s gambling empire after his death; Sindy Steele, the femme fatale bodyguard with more secrets than the Vatican has gold leaf and Michael’s wife Samantha, who likes to shop but doesn’t much care for Michael and Sindy’s business association. The cast of characters is rounded-out by two meathead bookies from Queens, a whiney but deadly assassin stuck in exile at one of Rome’s finest hotels and a gaggle of high-powered Catholic priests whose dealings have nothing to do with “God’s work”. It’s The Godfather-meets-Goodfellas-meets-The DaVinci Code

I had some trouble initially getting past the artificial intelligence premise on which the story is based. To be fair to the author, I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic – especially when it comes to future shock/conspiracy theories. If reincarnated to 1492, I’d probably have argued that the Earth was flat. Maybe if Stephen Hawking had come to me personally and explained “AI” principle, I might have been more receptive to the idea…but then again, maybe not.

The improbable plot aside, I also struggled with the schizophrenic quality of the storyline. Locations changed and jumped around a lot and some chapters were too short, making the plot difficult to follow. The sanitized dialog stuck out like a sore thumb – not a single F-bomb in a book full of mobsters? A novel about the criminal underworld should have a little edge.

Finally, the world-class destinations like New York, London, Florence, Rome, Venice and Paris were underused. Scenes were invariably set inside restaurants, bars or hotel rooms instead of taking the reader on a clandestine gondola ride on the Grand Canal, a car chase through the streets of Rome or a cliff-hanging murder scene from atop the Eiffel Tower. It might have been contrived and cliché’, but at least it would have been fun.

Regrettably, Death Logs In is a book I’m less than enthusiastic about. In my opinion, the author didn’t take the story of racketeering and church corruption quite far enough. But as I said earlier, crime thrillers aren’t really my genre…they could however, really be yours.

Meet the Author: 

E.J. Simon photo

E.J. Simon was the CEO of GMAC Global Relocation Services (a division of GM) and the Managing Director of Douglas Elliman, the largest real estate company in NY.

He is a consultant to many leading private equity firms and has held senior level positions at prominent financial services companies.

He is a world traveler, food enthusiast and lives in Connecticut.Death Never Sleeps is his first novel. His second novel, Death Logs In, will be available in October 2014.

Connect with him:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

 

CHECK OUT THE BOOK TRAILER:

Where to buy the book:

 Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble

Chapters Indigo

Death Never Sleeps – Amazon.it / Amazon.fr

Death Logs In – Amazon.it / Amazon.fr

TO READ OTHER REVIEWS OF Death Logs In click on the links below.

Tour Schedule:

Dec 12 – Monica Cesarato – review Death Logs In

Dec 17 – The Good Life France – review of Death Logs In / author interview

Dec 17 – Curiosity and a Carry On – review of Death Logs In

Dec 22 – Why Roam? – Book Spotlight / guest post

Dec 29 – The Good Life France – giveaway

Jan 5 – Young in Rome – review Death Never Sleeps

Jan 7 – Orvieto or Bust – review Death Logs In

Jan – Young in Rome – review Death Logs In

Jan – The Venice Experience – review Death Never Sleeps

Jan – The Venice Experience – review Death Logs In

Jan – Erica Firpo – review Death Never Sleeps

Jan – Erica Firpo – review Death Logs In

 

Italy Book Tours Logo jpeg 225 pixels

Italy Book Tours gets books in the hands of readers who love everything Italian. They offer professional virtual book tours to authors and publishers whose books are set in Italy, have an Italian theme, are written by an Italian author or translated from Italian. For more information you can contact Laura Fabiani at http://www.italybooktours.com.

 by Toni DeBella

Vicolo World War III

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There’s never a dull moment on my little vicolo…. (Read Vicolo Wars and Vicolo Wars: The Sequel).

 

I tacked the following note to the front door on the way out of town this weekend. I thought perhaps I could appeal to my drunken, vicolo-loitering, barfing teens’ sense of irony (combined with a little bit of pleading). I was wrong.

The note read, “I want to die drunk to throw up at the gates of hell.” – Jim Morrison*  This is not hell but the front of my house. Go vomit elsewhere. Thanks!

As I lugged out my trusty red bucket filled with scalding hot water to clean the remains of someone’s regurgitated stomach contents from the cobblestones in front of my stoop, it hit me! This wasn’t vomit at all, but rather a carefully placed pile of Pappardelle con ragù.

Touché, Ragazzi, touché. 

Game On!

*This quote was attributed to the late Jim Morrison, however I was unable to find confirmation that he had ever said it. It appears to be an urban myth circulating around the Italian Internet.

Vicolo Wars Update:

December 2, 2014 – Last night a young friend of mine saw the Facebook Post and photo below.  Translation: “One person in Orvieto assessed the situation with a little sense of humor.”  

It’s nice to know this young man appreciated the sarcasm.  Bravo Nicola!

Vicolo WWIII Screen shot 

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“From the author of Made in Italy comes a tale of artisanal tradition and family bonds set in one of the world’s most magnificent settings: Renaissance Venice.” 

 

I don’t know much about wine. I’m not an expert on classical art and, although I live in Italy, I’m the antithesis of a “foodie”. However, when it comes to giving my opinion about a glass of red, a painting in a gallery or the dinner on my plate, I’m quite certain of three things: 1) I know what I like, 2) I recognize beauty when I see it, and 3) I can tell when a meal tastes delicious.

It’s the same with a book. I’ve never actually written one, but I know a good novel when I read it.

Halfway into the first chapter of Laura Morelli’s The Gondola Maker, I found myself wondering if the author had a time machine. I suppose a historical novel should transport the reader to another time and place, but Ms. Morelli’s use of crystal-clear imagery and her microscopic attention to detail went above and beyond. I’d be putting it mildly if I said she’d done her homework.

The Gondola Maker’s story swirls around a young protagonist, Luca Vianello – a boy on the brink of adulthood. Born into a long line of gondola craftsmen, he works alongside his father and brothers in the family’s boatyard and never allows himself to imagine a future beyond the one that has been chosen for him. But following one single, blinding moment of rage, the direction of his life is altered forever and Luca must set out on an odyssey through the dark underworld of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. As he slowly picks up the pieces of his shattered life, he finds his true passion and destiny and, in the process of discovery, comes full circle.

As Laura Morelli spins her intriguing and authentic Renaissance tale, she brings to life the time-honored artisan trade of gondola making and reminds us that if not preserved, this centuries-old craft and others like it will be lost forever.

About the Author

View More: http://sarahdeshawphotographers.pass.us/laura-morelliLaura Morelli earned a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and an Andrew W. Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She has taught college art history in the U.S. and at Trinity College in Rome. She is the creator of the authentic guidebook series that includes Made in ItalyMade in France, and Made in the Southwest, published by Rizzoli. Laura is a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler and other national magazines and newspapers. A native of coastal Georgia, she is married and is busy raising four children. The Gondola Maker is her first work of fiction. 

Find her here website or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

I want extend my sincerest gratitude to Laura Fabiani of Italy Book Tours for inviting me to participate in my first book review event. Second, a huge “Grazie” to the author, Laura Morelli, for allowing me the privilege of reading and then sharing my thoughts about her novel. It takes talent, fortitude and sheer guts to write a book.  

 

AWARDS

IPPY Award for Best Adult Fiction E-book 

Finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award 

Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award 

Shortlisted for the da Vinci Eye Prize 

WHERE TO BUY THE “The Gondola Maker”…

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Book Depository

About Italy Book Tours 

Italy Book Tours Logo jpeg 225 pixels

 

 

 

 

Italy Book Tours gets books in the hands of readers who love everything Italian. They offer professional virtual book tours to authors and publishers whose books are set in Italy, have an Italian theme, are written by an Italian author or translated from Italian. For more information you can contact Laura Fabiani at http://www.italybooktours.com.

Read more Italy blogger reviews of “The Gondola Maker”…

Tour Schedule for The Gondola Maker

Nov 3 – Studentessa Matta – review / giveaway

Nov 3 – Il Mio Tesoro – review / giveaway

Nov 4 – Packabook – review

Nov 4 – Venice from Beyond the Bridge – review

Nov 5 – Monica Cesarato – review / giveaway

Nov 5 – Seductive Venice – review

Nov 6 – Food Lover’s Odyssey – review / giveaway

Nov 7 – The Venice Experience – review / interview

Nov 8 – Hello World – review

Nov 9 – Orvieto or Bust – review

Nov 9 – Capturing Venice – review 

by Toni DeBella

I love it quadri

Tip #1:    Point and grunt.

Tip #2:    Always have Google Translate open on your phone and a copy of the “Alfabeto Fonetico” in your wallet. My name spelled out this way is Torino-Otranto-Napoli-Imola. Domodossola-Empoli-Bologna-Empoli-Livorno-Livorno-Ancona.

Tip #3:    Never make eye contact on public transportation – it invites people to speak to you.

Tip #4   Don’t engage in conversations with Italians under the age of 5…it’s just soo00 humiliating.

Tip #5:    Avoid initiating phone calls – send emails or text messages because you’re less likely to sound stupid in writing.

Tip #6:    If you must answer the phone, pretend you’ve got a bad connection. “Pronto? Mi senti? Mi senti? Boh” and then hang up.

Tip #7:    Respond to questions (even if you don’t understand them) with phrases such as “Certo” (sure), “Si, Si” (yes, yes), “Va bene” (okay) and “Ho capito” (understood) as you start to walk away. People won’t think you’re rude – just late for an appointment.

Tip #8:    When all else fails…talk with your hands.

 

And speaking of speaking Italian..I recently participated in a podcast with Cher Hale, the brains behind the “Iceberg Project.

http://cherhale.com/2014/07/what-would-it-be-like-to-live-in-orvieto-italy-an-interview-with-toni-debella/

What’s the Iceberg Project,?

The Iceberg Project is based on the theory that most of what you learn about culture when visiting a new country without speaking the language is just the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about The Iceberg Project go to click here

by Toni DeBella


Vicolo scooter
 

THE SAGA CONTINUES… (Read Vicolo Wars here).

Since declaring war in my little alley things have gone from bad to worse. 

Remember the plants that I couldn’t water when motorcycles were parked underneath the windowsill? Not a problem any longer – my flowers pots disappeared one by one by one…

Flowers and sign

Rough Translation: “For the person who stole my vase of flowers. Shame!”

When the cold winter weather arrived the scooters moved out and the dog walkers moved in… 

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Rough Translation: “Someone lives on this vicolo. It’s not a bathroom for your dogs.”

**(Note: Sign disappeared 5 minutes after I posted it).

Oh, how I miss the days when young girls only sat on the stoop and smoked. Now drunk teenagers scream and barf on my doorstep at 2:30 a.m. leaving broken beer bottles to step on in the morning. I admit it was sort of amusing listening through the door as a group of confused offenders discussed the sign. I think the sarcasm might have gone over their inebriated little heads…

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Rough Translation: “To be young is a beautiful thing. Please be young somewhere else.” 

Vicolo War is hell.

 

by Toni DeBella

 

 

 

 

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Paolo and Elizabeth needed help harvesting their olives. The window of opportunity was closing and with rain in the forecast, this was possibly their last chance for raccolta delle olive.

Temperatures have dropped considerably in Umbria and a chilly wind was blowing. However, being the good friend that I am, I didn’t hesitate to offer my assistance. After all, what are friends for if not to come to the rescue in times of need?

The promise of free olive oil and a homemade meal prepared by Paolo’s mother, Franca, had absolutely nothing to do with it.

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by Toni DeBella

Read more about life in the Umbrian countryside in Elizabeth’s blog: My Village in Umbria 

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