Archive for the ‘Italians’ Category
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 on January 2, 2013 | 17 Comments »
Posted in Expat in Italy, Food in Italy, Italians, Italy, Orvieto, Rome, Travel, tagged Bergamo, chef de cuisine, food, Italian chefs, Marina District, Maurizio Bruschi, Michele Belotti, restaurants, Ristobar, Ristorante Ideale, San Francisco food, tastes of italy, The Olive Garden, travel on July 24, 2012 | 8 Comments »
It’s already bad enough that I have to be so far away from Italy right now, but on top of that, I’m completely tortured by the separation from the food in her restaurants!
San Francisco is a big, big foodie city known for its fine, cutting-edge dining, exquisite winemaking, and a strong, Italian-American heritage. Whenever possible, I eat in Italian restaurants but honestly, lately there seems to be something missing. The Olive Garden just isn’t cutting it for me any more.
Dining in Italy is the sum of its parts; a package deal where food and wine don’t tell the whole story – relationship, personal connection and graciousness are also part of the equation. When I am in San Francisco it’s not so surprising then, that the places I feel the most comfortable and want to frequent are those owned, operated and staffed by native Italians. Ristorante Ideale in North Beach is one of my favorites. (Read 7 Tastes of Italy). Owner and Chef Maurizio Bruschi creates a scene that makes the walk through his door, a walk into Rome.
…and then there was dinner last evening at Ristobar in the Marina District. The food was amazing in taste and presentation, but the icing on the cake was a personal visit to the table from the new Chef de Cuisine, Michele Belotti from Bergamo – young, talented and an artist with food. I was transported again…this time just a little farther to the north.
Ristorante Ideale: http://www.idealerestaurant.com/; 1315 Grant Ave, SF 94133 (415)391-4129
Ristobar: http://www.ristobarsf.com/; 300 Chestnut Street, SF 94123; (415) 923-6464
…is the battle cry of Italians everywhere.
I used to love American baseball, but I’ve changed alliances. I’ve been told that if you live in Italy, you’d better like soccer.
I watched Thursday’s European championship semi-finals along with a contingency of German and Italian expats in a café in Sausalito. When Italy won I felt a warm, tingling feeling inside. I think it was pride.
Tomorrow is the meeting with destiny and Spain….
People often speak about the traditional “Signora” as if she were a charming part of Italian society long since past. Don’t you believe it! La Signora is quite alive and well and combing the streets of Orvieto in search of a naïve and insecure American like me to use for target practice to sharpen her skills of intimidation. Frankly, I live in terror of getting on the bad side of one of these ladies.
I had my first real run in with La Signora at our town’s Saturday outdoor market. I’d made the amateurish blunder of hesitating for a split second and a woman with her produce-filled cart literally ran over me, scraping the back of my heel which broke the strap of my favorite pair of sandals. She didn’t even slow down – blowing right past me without a word. She was surprisingly unaffected by the ranting and cursing of a bloodied lunatic who doesn’t know her way around a vegetable stand. I learned at that moment that La Signora, like other people of great power and influence, is a force to be reckoned with.
La Signora demands respect and she most assuredly gets it. She is a sensible shoe-wearing, evil eye-casting, mama’s boy-promoting woman on a mission. She is serious-minded, takes no prisoners and doesn’t trust you as far as she can throw you. Her outside shell is tough to penetrate – Fort Knox would be easier to crack than her personal inner sanctum.
I both admire and revere La Signora. She is able to out cook, out shop and out walk me up a hill…and if she needed to, I believe she could even out run me. In Italy, La Signora reigns supreme.
Posted in Culture, Festivals in Italy, Festivals in Umbria, Italians, Italy, Orvieto, Umbria, tagged chano dominguez, danilo rea, Funk Off, gianluca petrella, gonzalo rubalcaba, jubilee singers, Orvieto, Orvieto Cathedral. Capodanno, roman catholic mass, Umbria Jazz Winter on December 28, 2011 | 2 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 6-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:
As the eighth year anniversary of my father’s passing approaches, I have been thinking a lot about him and of the legacy he left behind. To say that he was my role model and hero seems trite — everyone says that about their father (if they are fortunate enough to have a strong man in their life to lead them into adulthood as I did). A man of few words, I learned what was most important by watching him conduct himself throughout his life and in his 52 year love affair with my mother. It was in this manner that I witnessed the qualities I wanted to emulate for myself. If I could only become half the person that he was…
When my dad was a young man his nieces and nephews used to call him “Uncle Tootsy”. If you’d ever met this man you’d understand how ludicrous a moniker that was because my father’s reputation as a curmudgeon was legendary. He could come-off a little scary at first and often caused my friends at school to shiver in their boots. However, despite his well-executed “tough-guy” persona, once you got to know him you’d soon realized that his “schtick” was designed to hide one of the biggest and warmest hearts on the planet. Babies in particular adored my father – they were not fooled by his stern, gruff manner – they could see right through him into his soft, mushy center. My father had more friends than you could shake a stick at.
Dad was born at home in San Jose, California and raised in a house with 9 other siblings by Sicilian immigrant parents. Not formally educated past the eighth grade, he would religiously read the newspaper cover-to-cover every day and watch the news each evening. What my father lacked in academic knowledge he more than made up for in an uncanny intelligence for reading people.
At a young age my father learned his trade as a car mechanic and after returning from Europe at the end of World War II he began a automotive repair business, “Luke and Martin Service”, in an old converted barn behind my grandparents’ house. When I was a little girl, I never hesitated to take the opportunity to boast about him. If a kid bragged that his father was a brain surgeon, I would shoot back, “Well MY dad is a mechanic”! He worked in that capacity until he was nearly 75 years old because, I believe, his regular customers refused to let him go. A good, honest and trustworthy auto repairman is really hard to come by.
But he wasn’t the kind of guy to show off or talk about himself. He avoided people who put on “airs” or thought they were superior to others. He valued honor and respected hard work and straight talk. When I was a teen he once said to me, “Being rich doesn’t make you happy”. My response back was “That’s just what poor people say to make themselves feel better”, and he just smiled. He was crazy about Westerns (especially John Wayne and Clint Eastwood), and was an avid outdoor sportsman. By far his favorite activity was to fish in a boat on a lake with his buddies. He was so passionate about it that my family had the words “Gone Fishing” carved into his gravestone. The cheekiness of that gesture would not be lost on him.
I guess the bottom line is that my dad was the “strong, silent type”. Not very demonstrative — he wasn’t much for talking about his “feelings”. In all honesty, I don’t remember my father ever saying the words “I love you” to me, however, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t feel loved and cared for. Some people talk the talk but he actually walked the walk and taught me one of the most important lessons of my life so far: “Love” isn’t a noun, it’s a verb.
by Toni DeBella
Posted in Americans Abroad, Culture, Expat in Italy, Italians, Italy, Living abroad, Living in Europe, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Rome, Travel, tagged Federico Moccia, Fiume di Tevere, Love in Rome, Ponte Milvio, Tiber River on October 13, 2011 | 2 Comments »
For years young lovers have come to Il Ponte Milvio (Mulvian Bridge) in the north of Rome to declare their undying affection by writing their names on a lock, attaching it to a lamppost on the bridge and then throwing the key into the Fiume di Tevere (Tiber River) below. It’s a iron-clad promise to love each other until the end of time. Eternity ain’t what it used to be!
The bridge started attracting sweethearts to it after the publishing of Federico Moccia‘s popular book and film ““Ho Voglia di Te” (“I Want You”) in 2006. Unfortunately the barrage of locks started to bend the lampposts and the practice had to be limited to steel posts added by the Mayor. When the posts become filled, the locks must be removed to make room for newly-passionate visitors.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times? Along with the City’s reasonable attempt to keep its infrastructure from crumbling under the weight of thousands of metal locks, the solution perhaps mirrors the devotion and commitment of modern couples these days. Happily ever after is hard to come by and having your declaration to the one you adore chopped-off by an orange suited city worker with a wire cutter seems to underscore the changing landscape of amore a Roma.
But being the hopeless romantic that I am, I like to imagine that someday an old couple will walk arm-and-arm across the Ponte Milvio and recall when they too placed a lock on this bridge to commemorate the beginning of their love story. They’ll smile because they’ll know that love can last even when the symbol of that love has long gone.
Posted in Americans Abroad, Culture, Expat in Italy, Italian Culture, Italian-Americans, Italians, italo americano, Living abroad, Living in Europe, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Travel, Umbria, tagged Commissario Montablano, Enrico Papi, Gerry Scotti, Groucho Marx, La Routa della Futura, Learn Italian, Millionario, Pat Sajak, Ryan Seacrest, Television, Tower of Babel, Victoria Silvstedt, Wheel of Fortune, Who wants to be a Millionare on September 24, 2011 | 12 Comments »
“I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.” -Groucho Marx
Television as a way to learn a foreign language is by no means a new concept. Since its inception in the late 1940s, newcomers have been using TV as a means to help them absorb their new language, and more importantly, to assimilate into their new culture. The conventional wisdom of linguists is there is no relationship between watching television and mastering a language. I beg to differ. Based on only nonscientific anecdotal evidence (me), I assert that TV watching is a super supplement to other means of learning because it gives the viewer verbal as well as visual cues. You can look at it as a “workbook” in a box. With respect to colloquialisms that are spoken in daily life, what better place to soak up the slang than from a reality show or afternoon soap opera? After all, if it’s your intention to fit-in and become part of your community, you’ll want to become familiar with the common vernacular.
Pantofolaio (Couch Potato) Beware!
Of course, it’s important to take an interactive role in your “boob tubing”. Passively sitting back and letting the information wash over you isn’t going to cut it. Obviously television alone cannot replace formal training in grammar, vocabulary and mechanics. However, if used deliberately and thoughtfully to its optimum potential, TV can be an effective way to enhance your proficiency in three particular areas: pronunciation, commonly used expressions/vocabulary, and popular culture/trends.
Italian All day, Everyday
Wake up and turn on your television set. You don’t necessarily have to be watching it to get the benefit – the background noise of Italians in conversation is seeping in. By bombarding your brain with the spoken word, you can train your “ear” to the musical rhythm/cadence of this beautiful language. Repetitive listening and repeating out loud helps with pronunciation. It’s like gymnastics for your tongue while reminding you the importance of enunciating each and every letter to avoid changing a word’s meaning entirely as in penne (a kind of pasta) and pene (penis). Otherwise, dialogue at the supermarket could get interesting.
Are you Listening to Me?
Eavesdropping in public places – awkward. Watching a talk show in your living room – a much more relaxing way to pick up idioms in context (and with the accompanying hand gestures). Once I’d heard a phase used over and over, I would ask a friend its meaning and how to use it. For example, “Secondo me” came up a lot on political talk shows. I learned it meant “in my opinion/in my view”. Once it made sense to me in its proper context, I could begin using it with confidence in my own conversations.
Around the Water Cooler
You get a pretty good idea of the political climate of the country, its mores, values and attitudes with a healthy diet of current affairs programming. Who and what are in fashion can easily be gleaned from entertainment news and nighttime talk shows.
CATEGORICALLY SPEAKING…Types of Shows that give you the most “bang for your buck”:
#1 – Trivial Pursuit (Trivia Shows)
Millionario is one of my favorites. Gerry Scotti, (the Ryan Seacrest of Italy) hosts this country’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. The beauty of this show is that along with the questions posed to the contestant, you can read the question and possible answers on the screen. Are you a genius in English and Italian?
La Routa della Fortuna is the Italian “Wheel of Fortune”. Enrico Papi is clever and better looking than Pat Sajak, but the real fun is kooky Victoria Silvstedt, a former Swedish Playboy Playmate ( “Vanna White‘s” counterpart). It turns out crossword puzzles are a lot easier in your native tongue. This show is a surprising mixture of trash TV and educational programming rolled into one crazy format. A wacky way to learn vocabulary!
There is a plethora of serial dramas and sitcoms, many imported from America, that are broadcast weekly (Commissario Montablano, CSI, Law and Order, House, Friends, etc.). I discovered that you can set most televisions to the closed captioning mode which allows you to watch and read the programs in Italian at the same time. It really works!
Television Tower of Babel
It all comes down to one thing: communicating. It seems television has become our modern-day Tower of Babel — promoting understanding by uniting people while acting as a sort of cultural equalizer, making the world not just smaller, but downright miniscule. So, stay tuned!
by Toni DeBella
Posted in Americans Abroad, Culture, Expat in Italy, Italian Citizenship, Italian-Americans, Italians, italo americano, Italy, Living abroad, Living in Europe, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Sicily, tagged citizen of Italy, Consolato Generale D'Italia a San Francisco, Contessa Entellina, Corleone, DeBella, How to become an Italian Citizen, Italian citizenship, Italian dual citizenship, Sicily on September 11, 2011 | 14 Comments »
The letter from the Consolato Generale D’Italia a San Francisco arrived in the mail today. The words inside this envelope were a culmination of three long years of hard work and dogged determination:
Dear Ms. DeBella:
“I am pleased to notify you that your Italian citizenship has been recognized and that your certificate(s) have been forwarded to the Italian municipality of CORLEONE (PA) for recording.”
Somehow I envisioned this auspicious occasion much differently. There were times when I wondered if this day would ever come, and if it did arrive I imagined it would be filled with much fanfare, jumping up and down and screaming. Instead it was a quiet moment, a solitary moment — a very personal moment. It was my time to reflect on what it took for me to get to this place: patience, tenacity, belief, humor and a clear intention. August 31, 2011: the day I became a citizen of Italy.
Italian by Blood
Jure sanguinis (“right of blood”) contrasts with jus soli (Latin: “right of soil”) in that citizenship is not determined by place of birth, but by having a parent or parents who are citizens of a nation. In Italy there is no limit to the generations that can obtain citizenship via blood (except for specific constraints which obviously did not apply to me). And because the U.S. and Italy have a reciprocity agreement, one is allowed dual citizenship.
So, after tracking down my grandparents’ birth certificates (likely located in books archived in church basements of Corleone and Contessa Entellina), I gathered together some twenty documents of the birth, death, and divorce certificates for myself and each member of my immediate family. Apostilles and translations into Italian for each followed, along with a list of discrepancies (misspelled names of which there were many). And don’t even get me started about the rabbit-hole that is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security! This portion of the process took a little over a year to complete. Then there was the waiting period — one-and-a-half years to be exact — for the appointment to submit my application to the Consulate.
The procedure was daunting, frustrating and at times discouraging. When I felt like giving up, I thought about the finish line – life in Italy — and it helped to spur me on. I guess if becoming a citizen of a country were easy, then everyone would do it. You really have to want it!
Throughout these three years I’ve been very fortunate to have the support and encouragement of my Mom Nancy, my Dad (from Heaven) Luke, my son Andrew, and my dear friends, both in the U.S. and Italy. But it is my grandparents Jake (Gioachino) DiBella and Emma (Ninfa) Pizzo who deserve my utmost thanks and gratitude, for without them none of this would be possible. In the late 1880s they came to this country as young immigrants from Sicily. They married, worked very hard and raised a family of ten children and “hundreds” of grandchildren. I wonder what they’d think about their granddaughter one day returning to the land they left behind. It appears that the DeBella family, in the not-too-distant future, is about to come full circle.
Posted in Culture, Italian Culture, Italian Superstitions, Italian-Americans, Italians, italo americano, Italy, Living abroad, Living in Europe, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Rome, Sicily, Travel, Umbria, tagged 4-leaf clover, Chinese coin, Contessa Entellina, Italian Superstitions, Judith Viorst, Malocchio, Mati, Palazzo in Orvieto, Palermo, St. Peter's Square on September 3, 2011 | 4 Comments »
I have never been overly-superstitious and take great pride in my healthy cynicism. I don’t throw salt over my shoulder or avoid black cats. As a muralist, I walk under ladders frequently and don’t believe I have ever fallen victim to the evil eye. Thinking or saying something out loud does not make it come true. If it did, I’d be a size 6, rich and living in a palazzo in Orvieto. But I digress.
My grandmother was normally a very serious and solemn woman. One day a year she would transform into a madwoman, wielding a broom and running in circles shouting and screaming like a banshee in an effort to ward off the evil spirits who had apparently taken up residence in our cellar. It was spring cleaning run amok. I don’t know much about the tradition that had this small, fragile and shy lady fearlessly take on a bunch of ghosts in the basement of our house. I wonder if it was folklore passed down from her childhood in Contessa Entellina, a small Sicilian town 80km from Palermo. I did a little research and found quite a few references to sweeping away evil spirits with a broom — a common practice especially among southern Italians, but was unable to find any mention of the “screaming and running around” part. Perhaps that was my grandmother’s own personal stamp on the custom.
A superstition is a belief in something that has no rational foundation in science and is most often based on the prevailing religion or culture that contains these otherworldly beliefs. The word comes from the classical Latin superstitio, meaning “a standing over [in amazement]“. Greek and Roman pagans were believed to have scorned men who displayed a fear of the gods and thus, the behavior came to be referred to as superstition. This could explain why Greeks and Italians are famously known for their mythology and have a common legend in the “evil eye” – Malocchio in Italian, Mati in Greek.
When I wrote earlier that I am not particularly superstitious, I wasn’t being completely honest with you. The fact is that in the last few years I have come to believe a certain necklace I own has developed supernatural powers that, if worn daily, will someday bring me good luck.
It started out as a simple chain with a silver bar hanging from it. One afternoon while in St. Peter’s Square I looked down to see something glittering in the sun. I removed it from between the cobblestones to discover it was a tiny medallion of the Madonna. Convinced this was an omen, I instinctively hung it onto my necklace. A birthday present of a charm with the word “Friend” engraved on it followed — then a Chinese coin and a 4-leaf clover. On one arrival in Rome I wrote the message to my friend Angelo, “Io sono in Italia…mi sento come una farfalla” (I am in Italy…I feel like a butterfly). When he presented me with the gift of a tiny crystal butterfly dangling from a pink heart of course I had to add it to my collection. This “chain of fortune” is getting rather heavy!
Out of the 365 days in a year, I probably wear the necklace 360 of them. The other 5 days I just don’t feel quite right without it. Could I have inherited from Grandma this propensity to make weak associations of cause and effect where there are none? What can I say? I don’t like tempting fate. Writer Judith Viorst said it very well: “Superstition is foolish, childish, primitive and irrational — but how much does it cost you to knock on wood?”
by Toni DeBella