January 5, 2024
Chiavari along the sea
Capodanno, what is that? It is the Italian word for New Year’s Eve and, as usual, I spent it in Italy. This year I chose to spend the countdown to 2024 alone at home. I live near the sea and could see and hear the fireworks as they saluted the coming of a new year and, for many people, a fresh start.
The firecrackers began about 8 o’clock in the evening. I had just returned home from an aperitivo by the sea. I was relaxed and happy. But the sound of those little explosions was not pleasant for me. I closed my taparrelle, my insulating blinds, to keep some of the sounds a bit lower. I needed time to think.
2023 was a year full of extremes for me—highs and lows. Opposites meeting more diverse sights and feelings. The photo below reminds me of 2023.
An antique styles ship parked at sea in Genoa mext to modern day automobiles.
I was lost in thought reminiscing about these juxtapositions. I organized and sold my first ever tour in Liguria. We explored places that most Americans have never experienced. We went off the beaten path and met locals who everyone enjoyed.
Here’s my group in the hills above Imperia meeting Cristina Armato and her family. She is an award-winning Olive Oil producer—and her entire family spent the afternoon feeding us and sharing time.
We walked ancient paths where we were followed by locals as though we were famous Americans. Locals were so proud of their small towns and they wanted to share their lives with us.
We traveled into the mountains and visited the town of the witches. The views were phenomenal and the food was even better.
Triora views—from the town of the witches.
Dolceacqua was my particular favorite.
Besides the tour, I created several travel plans for a very diverse group of people. Some went all over Italy while several sought their hometowns of Origin as well as more touristy spots. It is a joy for me to assist Italian-Americans walk the streets of their ancestors. It has changed my life experience. The work is more complicated than my typical travel plans—but so rewarding for my soul. I even had one family walk the old path to the sea from the hills in Liguria where their parents were born.
2023 was a year that I spent almost 3 months in North America. My father turned 99 in July and my girls visited Minnesota to spend time with family. I cannot get enough of them.
Here’s my beautiful daughter Stephanie with my brother Joe on the 4th of July.
We also took a few days to drive and visit our Italian-Canadian cousins in Ontario, Canada.
Above is my Canadian cousin Ronnie with my sister Patrice.
Here are both my daughter and granddaughter with my amazing cousin Sandra, Ronnie’s mom. This family was instrumental in guiding my life through their examples of life beyond my hometown experience. I spent a great deal of time with them as I grew up. My daughter loved them but Maggie had not met them until this trip. She fell in love with them all too.
We returned to Minnesota in time for my dad’s 99th birthday. He is still quite fit physically and can still sing and dance. But his dementia is moving along slowly but surely.
Here I am with my Papa looking at Ricci family photos together.
I also had time to see some of my 32 Ricci 1st cousins.
Above I am spending time with my big brother, Jim.
Above you’ll see me with my cousins Janet and Kathy. We have been almost as close as sisters all our lives. We even attended schools together. I was always the wild one.
My cousin Roger and his wife Peg (above) had visited me in Livorno last year while on a Mediterranean Cruise. And this time they came over to the Mall of America to meet me and have fun—they live in Wisconsin. That was a treat.
Last year, I lost one of my last musician friends and those remaining, like me, took it very hard. I loved singing with Carl Bradley and enjoyed his eccentric lifestyle. For those of us in the Music Business, our subculture varied dramatically from what was considered normal. We lived our lives as we chose and often paid a stiff price for it. But we never judged one another for who or what we were. It was where I felt the most at home—with the musicians I performed with, traveled with and shared their lives. Typically, I see my old drummer and great friend Gary when I visit Minnesota. This year, after the loss of Carl, we decided to go together to see our friend Larry and his jazz group playing in Minneapolis. Gary’s wife said Gary and I needed a date night. It truly filled my heart with Joy.
Here we are—Gary above, me in the middle and Larry with the tie. It was so very good to see you two. Next year, let’s do it again.
After all this time in solitude, it was time to open my door to my huge balcony just in time for the midnight festivities. An amazing number of fireworks exploded over the sea. I love the sight of them but not the booming sounds that accompany them. Still, it was a time for the neighbors to gather on their balconies. Everyone greeted each other around midnight between fireworks blast. “Auguri” we all said to one another. “Best Wishes” is what they were saying to us all. There is hope in their salutation. There is joy in the excitement of the new year. And there is wonder about what 2024 will actually bring to us all throughout the world.
For me, I plan to do some traveling in Italy again and sharing my travels with you all. I will also need to be in the USA this summer and into October once again—After all, my father may make it to 100 years old and we will have to have a party. I want more time with my girls this year. And I have cousins and siblings to see that I missed last time. I am working on four different travel plans for 2024 so far. But since the Christmas holiday is still active in Italy. I am going slowly and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Yes, Italy is still celebrating. Tonight is the 5th of January. Tonight, La Befana arrives. There is is above as she flies over Italy delivering treats for children. As these children awaken on the morning of January 6th, they will find either their shoes or their stockings filled with treats. If they have been good it will be candy. If not, it is supposed to be coal. But they will receive coal looking candy.
Italians celebrate this holiday season for a month. The visit from the Witch above signals the last day of the party. Italians really do know how to celebrate.
Next year, perhaps you will join us in Italy. Most people do not think of traveling in Italy in the winter unless they are skiers. But It truly is magical here at this time of year, with or without snow.
Stay tuned for what happens in 2024. Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.
Ciao for now!
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Ciao for Now!
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