Thanksgiving Italian Style

Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving since Abraham Lincoln first declared it a national holiday in 1863, a day to give thanks for all that we have in an effort to unify the country at that time.   A full turkey dinner with stuffing, yams and cornbread was what most Americans ate but when Italian immigrants landed here, family feasts took on a life of their own.

Italians, Sicilians embraced the American traditions but couldn’t help but add a foodie flair.  Growing up in a family of Italian immigrants meant an antipasto platter full of pepperoni, provolone, artichoke hearts and peppers, and olives for the kids to wear on their fingers.   Next came pasta, sometimes manicotti but usually lasagne and then Sicilian stuffed artichokes with cheese, garlic, pignoli and loads of breadcrumbs.  The sloppy, finger-lickin’ delicacy was a lot of work for nonna to make but a lot of joy for us to eat.  If we were really lucky, there might even be a plate of golden-fried carduni (artichoke) stems.

Mia FamigliaNow, take a pause and loosen your belt because we haven’t gotten to the turkey yet!  Bring on the Yankee food:  turkey, cranberry sauce (usually the shaking jelly kind out of a can).  After stuffing and frying artichokes and baking lasagne, nonna had no time to cook cranberries!  The stuffing also had an Italian flare; you couldn’t bake bread in a dish without adding sausage, right?  As for dessert…fughettaboutit!  No American apple and pumpkin pie for the Italian kids!  We feasted on a table of decadent delights:  Sicilian cassata (ricotta) cake, Panettone, pastry by the pound and topped off with only fresh-filled cannoli.  Oh yeah, we Italian kids were allowed to drink too.  Sure they water-downed the liquor for us in our pretty little cordial glasses but nothing was held back in the food orgy of all orgies.

Thanksgiving Italian style – we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Buon Ringraziamento – Happy Thanksgiving!

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Ancient Etruscan Treasures

I am a true believer in past lives.  Maybe that’s why I was so keenly drawn to the Etruscan civilization and its rich history.  So, when my Italian language teacher asked if anyone wanted to go to Tuscany for two weeks, I jumped at the chance because it would allow me to walk like an Etruscan, so to speak.

This day’s adventure led me to an off the beaten path wonder in Chiusi, the National Etruscan Museum, Archeologico Nazionale Museo (Via Porsenna 93).  It stores a wealth of Etruscan artifacts and is located in the heart of the small town.  And it just might be the best €6.00 you’ll spend in Tuscany (kids under 18 get in free).

Etruscan husband and wife sarcophagus

Etruscan husband and wife sarcophagus

The Museum was established in 1871 and is housed in a wonderful neo-classical building.  It’s rich in Etruscan treasures because the hills surrounding it are bountiful in Etruscan tombs.  Whenever a farmer digs a new well and discovers a new tomb, the artifacts make their way down the hills and into the Museo.  The collection also includes contributions from private collections.

The items are organized quite well and begin with elements of the Bronze and Iron Age and proceed forward in time, alcove to alcove.  Yet, no matter how you journey through the building there is one thing which will capture the heart of any intelligent woman with wanderlust.  In Etruria, women were respected and revered.  Here you will see a female sphinx; here you will see noble women reclining with a book in hand; here you will see funerary statues that honor the female who has passed.  I was so impressed by this because it was something I had not known until that moment and which was so distinctly different from how ancient Romans and Greeks viewed women.

The statuary's eyes have a vapid quality which was the antithesis of this loving, deep and highly spiritual society

The statuary’s eyes have a vapid quality which was the antithesis of this loving, deep and highly spiritual society

The other stunningly strange fact is that all of the statuary and vases are missing eyes – not as in missing them like they were knocked out but missing them as the sockets are carved into the statue but without actual irises and pupils.  It gives the statues a vapid, soulless quality which is the antithesis of all that I have read on the Etruscans,  a highly religious and superstitious civilization.  It was so disturbing to me that I commented to my friend that it was as if this deeply philosophical society just disappeared and left no trace of its soul behind.  The Etruscan mystery endures in time and in Chiusi.

TOURIST TIP:  There is a pizza god across from the museo.   I kid you not.  The pizza chef in the pizzeria next to the Piazza del Duomo, directly opposite the museo, must be a descendant of an Etruscan god.  Magnificent.  However, he was not the happiest person when I was there but maybe it had to do with the hot pizza oven and a screaming mamma in the cucina this hot, summer day!


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Posted in Archaeology Vacations, Europe, Italy, Italy travel Concierge, Off the Beaten Path, Solo Travel for Women Blog, Tuscany, Wanderlust Women | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cinematic Stroll through Rome

In a legendary city that’s more than two millennia old, how do you narrow it down to films shot in Rome over the course of its cinematic history?  The list would be virtually impossible to produce in just one short article.  So, I’ve narrowed it down to the current millenium of film locations in Rome with movies released since 2000:

Ocean’s 12 (2004) – Of course, I have to get George Clooney in Rome….a girl can dream, right?  The Clooney crew plans to steal a valuable egg from the Galleria D’Arte di Roma which in reality was the British School at Rome located on the grounds of the Villa Borghese.

Mission Impossible III (2006) – Tom  Cruise’s Ethan Hunt enters the Vatican at Viale Vaticano.  And while Cruise certainly draws a crowd no matter which city he’s in, the crowds in Rome were making it difficult to shoot the film.  The production team established a fake film set away from the real action….they cast it with bikini-clad extras and nuns in “habit” drawing crowds to the wrong spot so filming could actually take place unimpeded.

Teatro Marcello Rome travelAngels & Demons (2009) – Piazza del Popolo offers one of the city’s widest open spaces for people gathering.  It also serves as one of the many clues Tom Hanks’ character chases down across The Eternal City in search of demons.

When in Rome (2010) – This is clearly one of those cute, romantic chick flicks starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel but we all need one of those on a rainy Saturday.  Bell’s character is being pursued by a host of suitors.  The fountain where Kristen’s character collects coins of love is called “Fontana D’Amore” in the movie.  It’s actually the fountain of Aphrodite of Knidos.  It exists on some side street.  Does anyone know its name?

Eat Pray Love (2010) – Moviegoers got to travel the globe with Julia Roberts’ character as she searches for passion in life.  By the time she lands in Rome, she visits all of the typical tourists spots including Piazza Navona, the Villa Borghese and the off the beaten path Rome of Piazza del Biscione…and indluges every food craving in “the no carb left behind” journey.

Do you know of a restaurant in Rome or a side street off the beaten path which has been in your favorite movie?  Add a comment below.

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Posted in Europe, Friday Flicks, Italy, Italy travel Concierge, Rome | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment