My First Birthday in Italy

December 12, 2017

It’s my birthday and I am in Italy for the first time ON my birthday. It is a new feeling, a new experience.

Are you a December baby? I am. Those of us who are born in December know that can mean being forgotten on your birthday. It is difficult to compete with Baby Jesus and all the excitement of the holidays of the month.

So often the 25th of December took precedence. Still, I do have photos of my early birthday parties.

Above is my first birthday. There my brother Jim and I are in high chairs and are surrounded by our older cousins.

Here, on my 2nd birthday my Bisnonna, Orfelia Palumbo Del Fiacco, is there with more cousins. I am two. I cannot find any more birthday photos. Soon there were so many siblings and cousins that it was difficult to have parties, perhaps.

In the 1950s my father worked the afternoon shift at Hamm’s Brewery and my mother had the responsibility of up to 5 of us children at home (My sister, Patrice wasn’t born until 1963.).

Jim was born in August, 1950. I was 16 months later. Next came Michael in 1955 and by 1957, the twins, i gemelli, John and Joe were born. Life was hectic in our little duplex. Still, a girl likes to be remembered.

One year, it was so crazy with school events for Jim and me, Christmas baking and shopping, and who knows what else, that my parents literally forgot my birthday completely. I would not bring it up. I was, perhaps 8 years old. I felt quite unimportant. Then, my Zia Gemma, Auntie Emma, showed up at our back door. Mia Nonna Ameliawas with her as were Maureen and Richard, our cousins. Auntie Emma had a huge personality. She walked into our kitchen and said, “Where’s the birthday party?”

I burst into tears. My mom made a joke of it all and my siblings laughed too. They brought gifts and we stuck a candle for me into a half gallon of Ice cream. It worked.

Another year, when money was tighter than usual, my parents sat me down and told me that I would be getting only one present for my birthday and Christmas. I needed a warm, winter coat. I was silent. There was nothing I felt I could do.

As I grew older, these events and others taught me one thing. If I want a fun birthday, I must take care of it myself. I decided that we December babies needed to have an UN-BIRTHDAY PARTY each December. I had several friends born in December and a few people I met through work. I would organize a dinner and invite only the December babies. And we would enjoy ourselves, be loud and silly and sing “It’s a very merry un-birthday to us, to us.” From Alice in Wonderland.

As the years passed,it became more and more difficult for us to meet. I learned to spend my birthdays alone sometimes. My daughter lived out of state. I was out of Men in my life—why DID they always disappear in December, anyway? I could have chosen to feel sorry for myself. Instead, I chose to make the ENTIRE MONTH OF DECEMBER my Birthday. That way I could celebrate with friends any time we could get together, even if they were not December babies. I could talk with my daughter when she was available. Christmas parties became my birthday party in my mind. Christmas itself and New Year’s Eve all became a celebration to the life of all December babies, including me.

Now, I am living my dream in Italy. What a fabulous place to claim the month of December for my birthday. There are celebrations and days off work all month. Chiavari was all lit up by the beginning of the month.

The Palazzo looked especially nice.

I visited Manarola on the 7th of December. On the way, I stopped in La Spezia to see my cousin Rosa Mascia and her husband Michelle Palma.

Outside I saw a Christmas tree made of human shapes.

After caffe` e cornetto, I hopped on the train to Manarola.

They were supposed to light the Christmas scene on the hills that evening, but the weather did not allow it.

The figures and lights still put the few travelers in the mood for the holidays.

I loved my day of celebrations in Manarola by the sea.

My meal was fabulous too. It was another birthday meal, of course.

Nothing like a bit of Octopus in oil and a glass of wine for a lovely lunch.

December 8th was a day of wild Mother Nature expressing her power.

The waves at sunset were so fierce and powerful, my camera was getting soaked.

The yellows and oranges of the sunset reflected off the spray as the huge waves crashed into the 10-foot tall breaker stones.

I chose to believe this was a celebration to ring in my birthday at midnight. Whatever the reason, Mother Nature was very vocal, very demonstrative.

The storm along the coast of Liguria continued well into the night. The sound of the waves permeated my home, even with the windows closed. And the next morning, my actual birthday, was sunny, windy  and gorgeous.

I had no plans until my friend Sharon contacted me for a walk along the sea and a beverage. We enjoyed snacks and drinks while the sun set.

It was a peaceful way to celebrate. Who doesn’t like the sea?

In the photos above you can see just how large those rocks at the breaker line really are. It was a beautiful day to turn 66 years young. I was in a glorious place where the sea, the landscape, the architecture and the people all so lovely. I walked back to my humble, little apartment where I chatted via Skype with my favorite people in the world, my daughter and granddaughter, for nearly an hour. It was a perfect night.

But why stop celebrating? The 10th was a drippy, rainy, windy day. Still, my friend Tom from Genoa took the train down to celebrate my birthday and just generally eat and laugh well. There is one restaurant in town with authentic Napoletano Pizza, good wine and great dolce. With umbrellas in hand, off we walked to experience a bit of Naples in Liguria. I loved every bite of my pizza.


The porcini mushrooms were a perfect add to the Margherita pizza I typically order. And Tom and I talked about being dual citizens living in Italy, learning the systems, laughing at our powerlessness over said system and loving our lives here. We are both happy living as single people in Italy. We take trains and travel as we please to places we love. We study Italian and seek out true Italian people as friends. We love the life.

When is your birthday? Have you considered celebrating it in a place like Italy, a country you love? I highly recommend it. And if you are a December baby like me, you can celebrate for the entire month as long as you remember how fortunate you are.

I remind myself every single day. Sono una donna fortunata. I am a lucky woman. La vita e’ bella in Italia. Life is beautiful in Italy. Come and visit. Let me help.

Buona Natale! Buona Festa!

Ciao for now!

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