Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm in Demand!

First there was the filming with the crew from House Hunters International.  Then came an email from a Milan-based photographer who wanted to meet us and see our village.  Now I've been interviewed by two really cool sites.  I feel so *wanted*!

If you aren't already a regular listener to the Eye on Italy podcast, you should be!  It's a great show with insights into the politics and culture of Italy, always with interesting guests.  It was fun talking about Basilicata with Michelle, Sara and Jessica.  Thanks for having me on the show, girls!  Hop over and have a listen to me in all my Ohio-accentedness (I *really* hate listening to my own voice!)
Eye on Italy podcast

Italian Reflections is kind of like a general store - there's a little bit of everything.  Travel links, news and tidbits about all things Italy, interesting guest posts, and of course, food and wine.  It's a cool place to peruse.  But one section that sets it apart is dedicated to expats and expat-wannabes.  There you'll find links to blogs and websites and info on where to procure products from home.  There are also interviews with expats, which is great; when we were planning our move it was very helpful to hear from others about the joys and pitfalls of such a transition.  They emailed the questions and compiled my responses.
Italian Reflections Interview

Go.  Listen.  Read.  Report back.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's a Boy!

My family has a long history of naming cars.  I don't know how it got started, really.  It's just something we've always done.  As a kid I remember Blanca, the white Chrysler that happily toted us and the hibachi to the beach.  My mom kept that hibachi in the trunk all summer long, to be ready whenever the opportunity struck for an improntu picnic.  There was a Buick, whose name I can't recall.  Then there was the lemon of a Dodge Caravelle, whose name quickly became P.O.S.  It was a real rattle-trap, but did manage to transport my sister safely to New Mexico before dying an inglorious death.

I've told you about my cars before.  My first car was the Chrysler Cordoba, a gas-draining behometh that could easily take ten of my friends cruising.  He was named Juan, because of course a Cordoba deserved a Spanish name.  We had a Suzuki Samurai (Suzy- very original, no?)  that was a lot of fun in the mountains and for tootling around town in summer with the bikini top (on the car, not me).  And of course, you know all about Arnold and his unfortunate mishaps

Here in Italia we become the parents of Guido, a dependable little Fiesta who was miraculously resurrected from the dead to serve us well for another year.  But he is now good and truly infirm and we can't expect him to live much longer.  His doctor even said costs will outweigh the effort. 

And so we went in search of another car- something reliable, economical, with good gas mileage.  Bryan will fill you in on the search and procure mission.  I didn't have much of an opinion on make and model.  My only stipulation was that it not be gray.  The vast majority of cars in Italy are gray, for some strange reason.  It makes it difficult to find the sucker in a parking lot.  And it's just so...boring.

We went to Rome to pick it up, catch up with our dear friends, Giorgio and Francesca and see their son (my fratello Romano) Valerio perform in an open-air venue.  All the way back to Basilicata I tried to identify the personality of the car and give it a name. 

Like my parents when they named me, it took three days to decide.  It just didn't look like a girl to me, so we at least decided on gender.  But then the names...well, Italian names often have a way of sounding kind of elegant, noble even.  This car is a working-stiff kind of car; an average Joe.  I also couldn't give it any of the widely diffused names of the region.  There are just too many Antonios and Micheles already, and besides, someone might take offense.  They already think I'm a little weird for naming the car in the first place.  There was a bit of debate, most of it in my own head because Bryan tends to not give a dang.  His family has no such tradition.

In the end, we decided on Enrico.  Here he is - the new kid on the block.  He's kinda cute, don'tcha think? 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Weddings, Southern Italian Style

So if you have visions of My Big Fat Greek Wedding when you think of southern Italy and matrimonial festivities, you'd be pretty much right on.  Which sort of makes sense since this part of Italy was, once upon a time, part of Magna Grecia.  There are bound to be genetic traces and traditions still floating about these villages. 

It all started back in November at our festa di ringraziamento when Elisa and Giuseppe told us to mark July 2 on our calendars as we'd be invited to their wedding.  Elisa was the first to befriend me and introduce me into her circle of amiche.  Giuseppe did the same for Bryan, so his little gang of guys that meets at the bar for a beer is now Bryan's posse.

The festivities started just over a week prior to the matrimonio with the pre-wedding parties, one for the guys (a meat fest) and one for the girls (a little raunchier, with an {ahem} anatomical theme running through the evening).  No dancers, just good (mostly) clean fun to embarrass the bride and groom respectively and give everyone an excuse to get together and eat (like they need an excuse for that, this being Italy).

A wonderful tradition here is the serenata.  On the eve of the wedding, the groom and his guys gather in the piazza and, accompanied by musical friends, stroll through the village to the bride's house while playing folk music and gathering friends along the way.  The groom calls for the bride to come down and accept his hand, but she plays coy, while the band plays and sings to coax her.  Our lovely bride gave in easily and came down quickly; others aren't so merciful, we're told.  We heard of one sposa whose mother threw water on the groom, not a very noble beginning, I'd say.  Music, dancing in the street and - a nice touch by Giuseppe, fireworks - rounded out the serenata.

Bright and early, when I went for my cappuccino, the guys were dressed in their suits and on the street taking pictures.  Okay, maybe not that early, since I'm not a real prima mattina kind of girl, but you know what I mean.  About a half-hour before the ceremony, Bryan hung with the boys while I went to the bride's house where a crowd was gathering to accompany her to the church.  We all followed the beautiful Elisa in her bridely glory, walking through the village to the church.  Just like in a movie.  No one enters the church until the bride arrives, then the big doors are opened and everyone streams inside. 

The ceremony was like most wedding Masses.  Vows were exchanged, joyful tears were shed, rice was thrown.  The guests flowed down to the piazza to wait while pictures were being taken.  Nobody goes to the reception until the bride and groom are ready, then they follow along, forming a snake-like parade down the hill.  The couple stopped at the cemetery to lay flowers on their fathers' graves, as both padri had passed away, a lovely gesture, but the parade didn't want to pass them and so the windy road that leads to our town was completely blocked, a line-up of cars backed up about a mile of the hairpin curves. 

The reception hall in the next town over is rather fancy-like.  They  have ceremonies down to a science, and served up gorgeous plates in synchronated rhythm.  It was as well orchestrated as a Broadway production, but tastier.  Truly impressive.  We sat down to eat at 2:00 p.m.  We got from the table to dance at about 8:00 p.m.  But the food wasn't finished; because why stop at 3 plates of antipasti, 3 primi, 2 secondi and cake when you can also roll out eleborate tables of sweets and fruit and gelato?  After a couple of hours of dancing, they brought out pizza and porchetta. 

Everyone asked if "this is how you do weddings in America?"  Yeah, right.  None that we've attended, though some of the music and the old ladies dancing together did remind me of some of my cousins' receptions that I remember attending when I was a kid.

We departed at about midnight, but not before the happy couple presented us with a gift.  That's right; in Italy, the bride and groom give gifts to the guests.  We're not talking about kitchy party favors, folks.  We're talking a really nice pair of china espresso cups and saucers.    

It was a fabulous party, one that we're told is pretty typical for this part of the country.  The bride and groom will be departing for their honeymoon America.  Nice; a couple of Americans celebrated their vows, and now they're off to America to celebrate their bliss.