It is very difficult when you are the only foreigner in a town and you do not know many people and those that you do know you can’t understand their dialect…!! I must say it has been a challenging week in this area but what I love about life is just when it is all getting a bit too much, serendipity pops up and gives you a bit of bliss.
I have been living in a small village, in the south of Italy in Campania and it is the same as all small towns throughout the world, full of gossip and things happening around the place with the people, wonderful food and a sea and view on the gulf of Napoli to die for.
However there is one big drawback for me… most people in the shops and on the street where you stop to chat, don’t speak Italian to each other. Italians love chatting and are very friendly, in fact they never shut up….!! But in this village they don’t speak Italian they don’t even speak Napolitanno, they speak another language - Puteolano, that even the Napolitanni don’t understand whereas myself… I don’t have a hope in Hades, Italian being my second language. Three languages here!...
It is a shocking thing when one has a small business that one has to be a captain of all things. However one of my favourite things is writing about Italy and I have been here in Italy for four months this time now and have not blogged.
Now this is both a tragedy for me as I love sharing my joys about this country but it is also a bonus for my clients as I have worked so hard to service them and have not had one second to blog. See everything in life has a positive and a negative. The same with this country and all other countries in the world as far as countries go.
I have recounted a lot of joys about Italy over the years and now I am going to write about a negative thing that could happen and then..... The thing to do... when these things happen in Italy, is to go with the flow. Oh - the train has broken down and does not show - well guess what!! - you might just meet the most fabulous people while waiting with all the other people on the station.
It is terrible to not have the time to blog. I would love to be able to have the time to write like Francis Mayes from "Under the Tuscan Sun" fame and other books about Tuscany. Frances and her husband restored a ruin to a magnificent villa near Cortona with amazing style and wrote a book about her experiences which was made into a romantic film.
Passion for Italy Travel is having a very busy Italian summer organising our clients holidays in Italy so I will leave it up to Frances to promote Tuscany for me as she lives there and knows it well. This is an excellent interview and not the usual commercial fare - very good in fact - watch Frances talk about the Italian ways.
I have been in Paris for a week with my children. I was last in Paris when the now 19 year old was only 4 months old and he goo gooed all down the Avenue des Champs d’Elysees in the pram. This time he walked beside me and showed me around and is now fluent in French after a family exchange in Provence for three months.
It was so nice to return with him all those years later – who knows - perhaps it was the man on the metro who sang opera to him as a baby that inspired his love of French. However he is also determined to learn Italian as well to satisfy his mother’s whims…!!
BOOK A ROMANTIC FOUR DAY WEEKEND IN ITALY FOR ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
To celebrate the patron saint of lovers on February 14 who was beheaded for marrying Christians in secret why not spend a long weekend in Verona the celebrated town of lovers Romeo and Juliet or Romeo e Giuletta. If you live in Europe why not take a four day long weekend to celebrate the most romantic day of the year - St. Valentine's day with your beloved.
The Feast of the Epiphany is a Catholic feast day which celebrates the journey of the three wise men to pay homage to baby Jesus in the stable. January 6 is a public holiday in Italy and on the night of January 5 the witch Befana (originating from the word 'Epiphana") flies on her broomstick to give presents to the good children and a lump of coal to the bad.
The day marks the last day of the 12 days of christmas. Work and school usually commence in Italy on the following Monday. Befana also leaves her gifts at grandparents' houses and uncles' and aunties' houses for the children so most Italian children are feeling quite sick by the end of the day!
A wonderful 7 weeks in Italy, organised and orchestrated by the knowledgeable, and ever helpful Gemma!
One of the cornerstones of our trip was to experience the great opera houses of Italy – La Fenice, La Scala, the Verdi Festival and Teatro Regio in Parma, San Carlo – and we saw great performances in them all! All of the tickets were pre-arranged – heaven!
The tours and guides that Gemma and her colleagues arranged were outstanding. I was amazed at the knowledge of the guides and their capacity to communicate and inspire.
We were early at the Vatican (with a surprise visit to a part not normally visited), a small intimate group for the Vasari corridor in Florence, the Doges’ Palace in Venice, the catacombs in Rome, beautiful and surprising Naples, not to mention amazing Pompei….it was all so beautiful and easy. There is nothing like experience, knowledge and a passion for the country!
The places we stayed at were works of art themselves with beautiful views (Montepulciano, pictured) and wonderful staff.
What memories! We will have to go back. We will be in touch, Gemma!
Ifor and Catherine Sept Oct 2012
Happy New Year to all reading this, to our past clients and to all the people that are going to come into our lives in 2013 from the Passion for Italy Team. Our globe or planet earth is opening up more and more each year as more people travel the world to explore different countries and new experiences with people of a different language.
As i live and work, back and forth between two countries, Italy and Australia, I am never ceased to be surprised by the difference between our cultures in all areas of life. People living in english speaking countries such as American, Australia and England that are not exposed to other languages like Europe is, tend to be unaware that a language shapes a country in more ways than one.
ISTIA D’OMBRONE NEAR GROSSETO
I was spent Christmas in Tuscany with the most wonderful people. I really love spending time in the small villages of Italy as this is where all the traditions are preserved in more ways than one.
As the Italian schools only have a break of two weeks holiday over Christmas New Year so the primary school in the small village of Istia just outside Grosseto Tuscany performed a Christmas nativity play with lovely singing on their last night of school.
The whole historical center turned into the town of Bethlahem except they called it “Istialem”! The parents of the children dressed up in costume and made stalls that exhibited goods from the time of Jesus.
There was the carpenter and the grain sellers and the food stalls. People opened their doorways and spread the paths with Turkish style carpets and muslims.
Large drums filled with lit fires warmed us on a cold winter night two days before Christmas accompanied by the music sung by the children, warm sangria and Tuscan sausages, Bolognese sauce and lots more.
It was lovely and the parents worked all day to decorate the village – there is such community spirit and everyone knows everyone. I love this.
If you are thinking about spending Christmas next year in Italy, I highly recommend spending it in one of the little villages where the churches and homes are filled with homemade presepe - the nativity scenes. The midnight mass is very traditional with baby Jesus taking centerpiece on the altar.
I had to laugh though as in the large church nativity scene, the cow had its horns and ears missing and it looked like a hippopotamus which made me start giggling in mass – a bad habit left over from childhood!!
I recommend booking your Italian Christmas now so you are guaranteed places in our beautiful boutique apartments as all the relations return home to Italy for the holiday season so best to book ahead.
See our villas and apartments in Tuscany here