The Wedding of Elena & Vincenzo

The groom – Vincenzo, and his mama

 

The ceremony

I arrived at the Cathedral San Michele in Piano di Sorrento just before 11:30am where my language teacher, Elena, was getting married to her fidanzatoVincenzo. Of course the location of the church was not as per Google Maps. Typical! Vincenzo waited out the front of he church, alongside his mother, to welcome all the guests who were predominantly family Elena had told me… 80 of them in total. Vincenzo was then quickly ushered inside moments before Elena pulled up in a black BMW sedan with her father. In Italy, the don’t tend to have bridesmaids. If you have young nieces they are sometimes flower girls, but as Elena had none, it was just her and her dad.

I would estimate it took Elena under 2 minutes to get out of the car, walk up the stairs of the cathedral (it was huge), and walk down the aisle. She was gone in a flash.. hence I have very few good photos as you can see! She didnt even pause at the start of the long aisle she had to walk down, she just kept on going like it was a sprint!

Being such an intimate wedding, I chose not to stay for long. She was a very traditional bride as you can see, in a long white gown with a substantial train. After the wedding, the reception was being held in a villa called Villa Clairmont up high overlooking the Bay of Naples. The feast apparently includes over 10 courses including antipasti, pastas, fish and meat. And of course dessert! Elena and Vincenzo are now off to New York and Miami for their honeymoon for 2 weeks.

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Meet me in Piazza Tasso

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Ciao from Piazza Tasso, the main square in Sorrento. I’m on my way home from a lovely day out and about and thought I’d post a piccolo blog about my day from my iPhone. So excuse the mistakes!

My day began with a run at 6.30am and already I could feel it was going to be a warm one. School is intense this week with only 2 of us in my class so I was happy to escape early to head to Piano Di Sorrento, the next town, to see my teacher get married! I will post more on this tomorrow along with photos.

After the wedding I dropped in to Nello’s puteca, my favorite salumeria for lunch (see photo!) and a chat, then bolted home, changed into my togs and hit the beach. Now that im abbronzata I’m going home for a shower and to change before meeting my friends for dinner and drinks later tonight.

So… Some news… Plans have changed and lucky for me, I won’t be leaving Europe this Sunday after all! I’ve extended and will be heading to Rome this Saturday where I plan to spend 5 days doing all things non-touristy and practicing my Italian. Then I hop over to Porto Cervo, Sardinia, where I’ll meet my friend Yezzy who is sailing a 60m yacht for a few days. Tough I know…! After that I’m off to Monaco for another few days then finally back to Rome then home on the 16th of June.

All exciting and with the weather warming up again it’s a huge blessing not to have to leave Europe and this country just yet.

(photos are from my iPhone so not sure about clarity. The shot of the bride is not my teacher, but another random English wedding in Sorrento which I’ve just seen now and quickly snapped. The other shot is Sorrento by night… Spectacular.)

The Inexplicable

A local on his motorino with pooch! Piazza Tasso

If I were to add it up, I’ve spent many months, maybe even close to a year of my life living in Italy. But somehow, each time I leave, I quickly forget many of the little things that I love, love to hate and those things that I am just totally confused by, many of which you only experience when you live here. Perhaps they aren’t as interesting to you, or perhaps you can’t relate to these if you’ve been to Italy but haven’t stayed for longer than a week or two at a time, but since I have your attention, here are a few observations (note: some of these i’ve already mentioned, so apologies for the repetition):

  • Tourist offices are closed on Sundays – …because tourists don’t visit attractions on this day and stay in their hotels?!!
  • Water pressure is always poor – yesterday I washed my hair under the tap. Yep, it was a far better alternative than standing naked and freezing for 25mins trying to use the trickle that comes out of the shower head (which I have to hold to use)
  • Every second man wants to give you his number – is this just a ‘numbers’ game (so to speak), and they figure if they give it out to enough women odds are that they’ll get at least one call?
  • The Italian Men – need I say more?
  • Italians don’t exercise – I know I’ve talked about this one already. Please explain how you eat Annamaria’s dinners and stay thin without spending 3 hours in the gym each day.
  • Denim on denim is considered acceptable – for a country known for its style, how is it that so many Italians are stuck in the 80’s when it comes to fashion?
  • You’re given half a loaf of bread with your main meal – does my huge bowl of pasta followed by fried potato, meat and vegetables not seem like enough carbs already?
  • Toilets don’t have seats – When I first arrived I thought Annamaria’s must’ve been broken and waiting to be replaced. But it’s never arrived…
  • I drink my water from a disposable plastic cup – why can’t I have a real glass at lunch and dinner time at Annamaria’s house?

Giuseppe, one of my teachers comes from Napoli. The Napolitani are very superstiziosa and he shared some of their superstitions with us in class:

  • The black cat – I know some of you also feel the same way when you see a black cat: ‘bad luck’. For Neapolitans, if you see one you must stop in your tracks, even if you’re in a car – slam on the brakes (partly explains why Naples is so chaotic – many cars, and many cats!) and wait for several people (or other cars) to pass in front of you before you proceed.
  • To say ‘good luck’ is very bad luck! Very, very bad luck Giuseppe tells us. Instead, you say ‘in bocca al lupo’ which translates to ‘in the mouth of the wolf’, to which you must reply ‘crepi il lupo’, ‘the wolf is dead’.
  • Don’t take the salt! If you are at the table and ask for the salt, someone must get it and put it on the table in front of you, you cannot ask someone to hand you the salt. To take the salt from someone else is considered extremely bad luck.

Today in class we learned all about the public holidays celebrated in Italy, and how they celebrate – what they eat and who they eat with. Of particular note was Christmas or Natale and Easter, Pasqua. In Italia, Christmas is ALWAYS spent with family, not friends. It is a grand feast known as a cenone, and consists of several courses (really not unlike ours at home!) cooked by the women of the family. But always always spent with the family… that is until midnight when everyone is then released from the family home to go and party with friends. Easter is different and is spent with family and friends, although apparenly your mama or nonna will always try it on and encourage you to stay at home with the family. For this reason there is a saying in Italian: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”, which loosely translates to Christmas with your family, and Easter with everyone else!

(Today.. more IT issues so I only have the one photo, taken by some lovely dutch friends I met and lunched with a couple of times – Joanna and Ton… CIAO! xx)

Meet me in Naples… and discover the beauty within

Arrival into Napoli by boat

Leaving Sorrento – My friend Nerissa

Archaeological Museum – setup for a function tonight

As I type, i’m sitting in a piazza nearla casa miain Sorrento with a glass of Primitivo and some mini bruchetta with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil to nibble on (like I need anymore food after today’s indugence, but more on that later), pondering what to say about a day which I had been anticipating since I’d arrived – my day trip to Naples.

I’ve been to Naples several times before, particularly while working on the boats as it was the last major commercial port where you could refuel, carry out maintenance and provision before picking up guests to cruise around the Amalfi Coast. I’m sure Sandy and Pete you will agree – that port is pretty ugly with stray cats, scarey looking mutts and homeless and desperate people sleeping in houses made of cardboard boxes. And so, with this and Napoli Centrale, the main train station where professional thieves will throw baby dolls at you in an attempt to have you abandon your bags to catch it, thinking it was a human baby, only to have them pick up your belongings and run, being my only really experiences in Naples (and don’t worry the doll/baby story didn’t happen to me but does happen!) I was absolutely determined to find the well hidden beauty that many speak of in this city which is run by the Camorra (essentially criminal gangs).

And today, I found it. I think the thing about Naples is that it’s just not obvious like it is in many European cities, particularly those of Italy and France for example.You have to work hard to find it, and in some cases just be lucky enough to get lost in the Centro Storico, take a wrong turn and find an empty church with frescos that easily rival those in Rome which we queue up for hours to see. Seeing ‘the Veiled Christ’ in SanSevero was an experience I will remember forever and I still get goosebumps now visualising this masterpiece. The findings from Pompeii and Ercolano exhibited in the Archaeological Museum are truly facinating too, as the ‘best bits’ really have been removed from the excavation sites which i’ve already seen to be looked after in the Museum.

While at the museum, there was a very formal function being setup with dinner served on the top floor surrounded by paintings which previously decorated the ‘mansions’ of Pompeii 2000 years ago, while ‘welcome drinks’ were being set up to be served amongst rows and rows of marble statues excavated from ancient Roman baths. No-one would tell us what the function was for but I sure wish I had an invite!

After the museum we spent some time wandering through the Spanish Quarter and found a dodgey pizza joint to have our mandatory pizza for lunch – we’d been informed that the uglier the place looked, the better the pizza would taste. We found a terrific ‘dive’ and grabbed a seat with a view of the open tiny kitchen and watched the guys work their magic, and it was truly heavenly to taste. Almost indescribably good. Dad – you would argue the base was too soggy but somehow the soggy, mushy mess that ended up all over your face was better than even I had imagined.

Of course we left room for a gelato, also delicious, then headed back to the boat to get the 5:30pm back home.

Napoli is certainly a filthy, dirty place where poverty stares you straight in the face at every corner, but sometimes true beauty is less obvious on the outside and you need to look beyond the ugly exterior to find it. And when you do, it just might be the most beautiful thing you’ve seen in a long time.

A short post: Friday Arvo in Positano

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After school this morning I decided to jump on the bus and head to Positano, arguably the most spectacular town on the Amalfi coast. After just 40 mins on the bus I arrived and am now sitting in one of the cafe bars down on the beach. For a Friday it is surprising quiet here but the weather is perfect and with few tourist aroun, possibly scared off by the last few days which have been cold and wet on the coast, I’m enjoying a glass of rose, some Sicilian olives and a casual chat with the waiter in Italian (having learnt the past perfect tense this week I feel like I can really carry a conversation without only speaking in the present tense and feeling like I speak like a 5 year old!).

School is going really well and I feel I’m becoming more confident every day with the language which is an exhilarating feeling!

This week a great friend Yerin came to Sorrento from Monaco on business to meet clients in a shipyard so I was able to have two fun and very late nights with him in Sorrento. While I haven’t been lonely at all since I’ve been here (as a single female foreigner in this country you are never really alone!) it was still fantastic to see a familiar face and especially one of such a good friend whom I havent seen for years.

Tomorrow I go to Napoli and I am determined to find out what is special about that seemingly dirty and ugly city! Hopefully I’ll return to tell the tale (I’m kidding mama I’ll be fine!).

Ciao from Positano. I’m going to finish my rose and go and scope out a dinner venue… Yes things continue to revolve around food in Campagnia!

The importance of family

A lovely new friend Erika

Hotel Tramontano, just near school

 

 

I was writing an email to a close friend of mine the other day, explaining that life just seems simple over here. Perhaps it’s because I’m on holidays in one of the most beautiful parts of Europe, far away from the (at times) stressful work that comes with a career in finance, learning la bella lingua and eating a gelato every day (yes, it’s true). Or perhaps the Italians really do have it all worked out (well not all, yes both them and I are well aware of the fragile state of their economy at the moment) when it comes to being happy… They cook simple, delicious food with few preservatives; after they eat their main meal in the middle of the day, they’re tired, (aren’t we all) so they have a sleep for a couple of hours; if an Italian guy likes the look of you, he’ll tell you “BELLA… Bellissima!” and if he wants to see you one on one, he’ll just come right on up and ask you out for a drink then and there!

Life here in this country is about people and their relationships. And first and foremost comes la famiglia or family. To us, the closeness of some of the relationships within the family is perhaps a little too much at times – but being very much a family girl myself (we Cancerians certainly love our home), seeing the Italian family operate is a beautiful thing.

Yesterday, while waiting for a friend in a bar I got chatting to the barman, Pepe, recently a nonno (grandfather) whose first grandchild had just been baptised last Sunday at the age of 2 months. He was very quick to pull out his smart phone and flick through some photos of the baby at 2 days old, 1 week old, 2 weeks old, 3 weeks and 4 days old etc!!! When I asked how often he sees the baby he looked at me confused. I thought I’d mixed up my tenses trying to speak Italian but no, he was just surprised by my question and replied “well of course every day”.

As you know, Annamaria my Italian nonna has her whole family live with her in the same apartment block and she is visited daily by daughter Luci. Annamaria has been away for the past two days and was there when she arrived home this afternoon and the embrace she was greeting with by her grand daughter Aurora lasted at least 2 minutes, both hugging each other as though it had been years since they’d last seen one another.

In most regions of Italy, but particularly in the South, the males are called mammone which basically means ‘mummy’s boy’! Until they find and marry their fidanzata (fiancé), they remain at home with their mum, who practically idolises them – cooking, cleaning and washing for them every single day of their lives. Even then, when they finally leave the nest, mama continues to pop round to cook and pickup or deliver his clean/dirty clothes. One Italian guy even asked me to his place the other night so his mother could cook for me – not him! I actually dissolved into fits of laughter only to be met by his blank expression to which he then added that she was a very good cook. I certainly will never know!

Despite the existence of the mammone to me seeming a little too much, the importance and emphasis on family is acknowledged by all Italians, something that I think is often lacking in our culture at times. And while there are plenty of traits of the Italians which I’d be happy to leave, taking a leaf out of their book on the importance of family and close family friends and the love, respect and loyalty which comes with that importance is something I hope I can bring home with me when I leave this special place.

 

 

Meet me at the top of Vesuvius… and take the stick!

 

At the top of Vesuvius

 

The track around the crater

 

Ercolano Scavi – a town that was buried

Saturday was perhaps a little harder than it should’ve been, having finished up at 2am that morning at Daniele’s Club, it maybe wasn’t the best day to climb to the top of a volcano. But I did.

After a stand up caffe macchiato andmarmelatafrom the pasticceria, I jumped on theCircumvesuviana(local train that runs between Sorrento and Naples) and headed to Ercolano Scavi, a town which like Pompeii was buried during the erruption of Vesuvius in 79BC.

I had heard the ruins of Ercolano, while much smaller (the sea side town at the time of the erruption was home to only 2000 people, compared to 10,000 in Pompeii) were fascinating and in a better state of preservation. In some ‘houses’ the ellaborate mosaic floors are still intact and frescos are colourful with the intricate details very visible. Like Pompeii, walking around this town is a moving experience, particularly as you stand in what was then a local bar or restaurant and look up at the huge volcano which towers over you.

And so, while I’d heard mixed reviews about the hike up to the top of Vesuvius, I was still fascinated by this beast that I stare out at every day and which is visible from just about every town in the Bay of Naples, and jumped in the mini bus which would take me 1km from the very top.

The last 1km to the top of Vesuvius must be hiked on foot… and it is steep…! So steep in fact that there are ropes for you to pull yourself up with at certain points. They also offer you a long stick to assist you with the trek, which I discovered is not so much needed on the way up, but more so on the way down so you don’t fall flat on your face!

When you arrive at the top, the view is captivating for 360 degrees. While the visibility was not perfect on Saturday, I was still able to see every town in the Bay, as Capri in the distance. Staring down into the crater I could see while gases being emitted – evidence that it is very much alive and realistically could blow at any moment. In a reminder of the numerous fault lines that Italy lies on, there was sadly a big earthquake in Bologna that evening, claiming at least 7 lives. One doesn’t want to imagine the devastation that could be caused if and when Vesuvius errupts again one day.