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.

 

The Biggest Friday

My school – Sorrento Lingue

My class at Sorrento Lingue (L-R): Michael, Grace, Giuseppe (teacher!), Carolina, Marcia, Amy and me

In class with my other teacher – Elena

The English Wedding Party (earlier), looking much better than they did at 2am!

 

Friday was a huge day. It started at 6am with a run (go Lozzy!) and ended at 2am in the local nightclub with a few Belgian friends and some locals, watching a very inebriated English wedding party (including bride) attempt karaoke.

For the last two weeks I’ve taken classes with a group of Americans and Friday was their last day, and so, before school I headed to the local pasticceria and bought 8 sfoigatelle to share with my class at morning tea. Following their graduation ceremony a couple of up headed to Bouganville, a great gelateria for some celebratory gelati (not that I ever need an excuse) before I then headed off on my walk to Sant Agnello to my favourite little ‘puteca for lunch. When I arrived sitting inside were a couple of Italian friends also having lunch so I joined them for a delicious chicken salad and tomato and mozzarella bruchetta. Every time I go to Massaniello’s puteca I’m so glad I made the 30 min walk to get there – the food is just fabulous every time.

After lunch, I jumped on the back of a scooter and a few of us went to get a stand up coffee at a local ‘bar’. By then it was time for me to head home and get dressed and ready to meet an English friend from school for drinks and tapas at Luigi’s bar in town. After dinner, I arrived at Teatro Tasso as I’d bought a ticket to the “Sorrento Musical”, a concert showcasing traditions, folk dancing and the famous songs ‘O Sole Mio and Torna a Surriento. Before the show started there was complimentary prosecco served outside on the terrace which overlooked theBayofNaples. The view was spectacular… as was the show which followed! The music was moving and the entire show so entertaining that I never wanted it to end.

Following the show I was roped into having another prosecco in the courtyard by the show host, then a drink in the square, until I was finally able to escape and go to meet some friends at Daniele’s Nightclub. At 2am it was well and truly time to leave as I had a huge day ahead of me the next day which I’ll write about in another post. But needless to say Friday was a great day filled with adventure, excitement, good food with friends and entertainment from beginning to end.