January 15, 2019
It is difficult to believe that two years as a resident of Italy have already passed. It has been a year of discovery, both of myself and my new home, a time for new friends and family surprises, a time of growth and some shocking pain.
Last January, I returned from Christmas in the USA and found the sea in Chiavari in a state of fury.
The way the waves crashed on the stone breakers reminded me of the fiery Italian personality that I share with many native Italians. It is powerful, passionate and a little bit pazza, crazy. The Promenade was quiet as many leave for the winter and return to their homes in Genoa or in other countries. I loved that time of year where the seaside is practically deserted and I hear the waves crashing even while inside my appartamento with the windows closed.
February arrived with a roar and rainfall. My business really took off during January and February too. I was able to assist many groups of travelers to create their dream adventures in Italy.
February in Italy was time for Mardi Gras. I attended the family oriented, political parade in Viareggio, Tuscany. The floats were exquisite.
The people dressed for the parade.
Including my dream boyfriend. I hope he doesn’t mind.
I met my new Facebook Friends, Nancy and Michael, plus Nancy’s daughter Kim, in Rapallo in March. I had created their travel plan and introduced them to the Ligurian Coast where, after spending a few days in Rapallo, they have chosen to live. We also took the funicolare, mountain rail car, up above Rapallo to explore a monastery there.
The view was stunning.
March was also a celebration along the Ligurian Coast, a celebration of Pesto Genovese. Towns small and large held contests and tastings of their pesto. That green Genovese basil is the best in the world. You must use this basil, fresh garlic, pinoli pine nuts grown locally, and local olive oil to create this culinary gem. I have become addicted to pesto. How about you?
The first weekend in April was Easter Sunday. My friend Tom invited friends to his appartamento in Genoa to celebrate. He provided a feast to make his Italian family proud, including the pesto pictured above.
And this gorgeous Lamb plus so much more. I made a family tradition of my own Abruzzo/Benevento family, Sweet Easter Pie. Eating this cheesy, sweet pie soothed my homesickness. And my Genovese friends had never tasted it—they loved it too. It went well with their traditional meal.
By April, I was working long hours creating unique trips for my clients. I found balloon trips over Chianti, Paddle Boarding on the River Arno in the center of Florence, Foodie tours in Bologna, Roman nights by private drivers, and so much more. Every single group had unique requirements. It took up a good deal of my time. I did manage to run away to France for a week. I met my Godson and his family in Paris for a part of the adventure and then traveled alone for the rest. One thing I learned the hard way on this adventure: I should have hired a Professional Travel Consultant who specialized in France. I was unprepared for the Train strikes, for the loss of hotels, for the time wasted on trains and more. Still I spent two days in the Louvre and finally saw the Mona Lisa and other exquisite art.
And the Eiffel Tower.
Time with my loved ones made it even more special. But I did miss Italy.
By the end of April and early May, Company was arriving in Chiavari. Two good friends, Kathy Van Til and Patti DeRosa, both visited Chiavari and their time overlapped. We three crazy women spent all our time outside, enjoying aperitivi, wonderful meals and traveling along the Ligurian coast.
The highlight of our time together was the visit to San Fruttuoso, an ancient religious site reached mainly by ferry boat.
Two other guests, Sandra and June, came to Chiavari in May as well. We visited Tom in Genoa, explored the city and then went our separate ways.
Besides, it was time for me to fly to the States for a three-month visit. I left at the end of May, arrived in Minneapolis and had planned to spend three months between Minnesota and Washington State. My 93- year-old father had moved into Senior Housing and I wanted to spend time with him as well as give my siblings a bit of assistance. I spent several days with him in June, even sleeping overnight. It was an energy drain, but I loved sharing time with him.
I also met with clients from Minnesota to finalize their travels. And my condo was on the market for sale. It was a very busy month.
On the first day that I chose to relax and refresh myself, at about noon, I missed a call from my daughter, Stephanie. I immediately called her number back and someone else answered the phone. I felt like ice suddenly encased my body and all I could say was, “Where is Stephanie?”
The woman on the phone was a social worker at a hospital. She told me that My daughter and granddaughter had been in a car accident. Stephanie was incoherent but Maggie, my 7-year-old granddaughter, unlocked Steph’s phone and dialed my number from memory. It was a bad accident. The doctor talked with me and said they were very concerned that my daughter had a brain bleed and they needed to get her into an MRI. She was very confused and disoriented. Maggie was in better shape but frightened. I talked with little M and hoped I could help her feel safer. I promised that I would get on the next plane and be there for them both.
Luckily, Steph’s friends were arriving to meet her for lunch. Even though they really did not know Maggie, they had their daughter with them, and they kept Maggie occupied until I arrived after 11pm. They secured a hotel for us too. I am so thankful to them for all their help.
After the phone call, I was a wreck. My sister came home to help me stay calm. My ex-husband secured my flight out to be with them. I was overcome with fear for them both. Luckily Stephanie did not have a severe brain bleed but did have a very severe concussion plus many injuries. I believe that she somehow shielded Maggie as M’s injuries were much lighter.
As I paced my home and while flying, I questioned my choice of living in Italy. I felt very guilty about choosing my own bliss and not being closer to them. I was not sure that I would come back to Chiavari.
My three-month trip became a 5 ½ month stay in the States. I spent 3 months in Washington State as my girls’ chief cook and bottle washer, laundry lady, organizer, driver, caregiver, grocery shopper and general assistant. I do not regret a second of it. And I was so thankful to begin to see improvement in Stephanie’s memory and to see Maggie’s insecurity and general fear lessen every week. I also appreciated how their friends rallied around them to help in any way that they could. After Stephanie was able to drive, I began to plan my trip back to Minnesota and on to Italy. Stephanie encouraged me to go back to Italy. She has always been very supportive of my move. It was harder for Maggie, but she adjusted quickly.
In Minnesota, I finally sold my home. It was a relief to let it go to someone else who was very excited to live in it. I also went through my few remaining belongings that I had stored at my father’s old condo. It was difficult to let go of even more treasures. I kept the items that had more than a functional meaning to me.
My mother’s china, my nonna’s hand-painted dishes,
my bisnonna’s silver,
and even hangers that my other grandmother had created with crocheted padding. They always make me think of Nonna Ricci.
I arranged a small shipping crate to be delivered to my Chiavari home. I rearranged tickets home and finally arrived back in Liguria in mid-October.
After arriving home, I did a good deal of traveling, meeting new specialists and new friends. I tasted new wine and olive oil. I traveled new paths that can help me assist you when you make your itinerary for your Italian adventure. More on that next week. Tune in next week for information on my last two months of year two in Italy. Until then, contact me any time for information on traveling or living in Italy. My email is Marilyn@TakeMeHomeItaly.com.
Ciao for now!
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Ciao for Now!
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