Friday, December 30, 2005


Buon Natale! (and How Do I Deal with Invasion of Space!)...

Our little village "comes alive" in summer and holidays as the good portion of the homes here are owned by weekend visitors from the more wealthy cities in the North. Below us, we have Adriano, a famous butcher from Modena who also greets us with a smile and gregariously welcoming words. And above we have, GianCarlo #1 and above him, GianCarlo #2 (a full-timer here in Solaro). GianCarlo #2 resembles a man who may have been very handsome at one time, but has turned too many times to the bottle and now spends his evenings playing his guitar into the wee hours of the night. He's actually pretty nice, but there are swirling stories that ever since his wife committed suicide in their home (?!), he's been one step from jumping out the window himself (which would have him landing in our garden). Whenever the guitar is really loud, I try not to look out the window.


The real problem here is GianCarlo #1 and his rather robust and rowdy family who comes to visit on such occasions as Christmas and New Year's and quite possibly Befana (but it's too early to tell). It all started when we first moved in last April. For 5 nights straight, we were kept up until God knows what hour by the sound of GianCarlo#1 moving furniture above us, talking/yelling at himself and playing the guitar like GC#2 (only one floor above us). Eventually, Luigi invited him into our house and gently asked him if he could keep it down after midnight. Well, GC#1 did not take this well and basically stormed out. We put up with it after that as we were new and did not want to offend anymore further. Then August and the rest of the GC#1 family arrived - for 5 weeks. I don't know if it's the fact that they use bamboo in between concrete in these buildings giving it orchestra like acoustics, but for those 5 weeks, I did not sleep through one night! The worst of them all was (is) the 2 year old granddaughter who walks like a hippotamus. It would be one thing if it was just every once in a while, but this child is relentless in running across the house floors screaming - and it usually starts about 10:30 at night. Best of all was the time she ran and screamed non-stop for about 5 minutes and then "Vai a funcula, Mamma" (which is about as disrespectful as one can be to one's mother).

They arrived Christmas Day and have continued their usual antics despite my occasion protest with the broom on the ceiling. (Oh and they have just arrived home as I hear the furniture moving - what do these people do with their furniture!?) 2 days ago, I awoke one morning to hearing sweet Adriano below us singing some song and wishing "Auguri" to a local. And then I heard the windows above us slam open. It was GC#1 who yelled down at Adriano "Don't you realize some of us are trying to sleep?"

Adriano answered, "And what tie might it be?"

GC#1 answered, "10 to 10."

Adriano answered, "Well then, at 10 to 10, I can pretty much talk and do as I want."

GC#1 replied, "You come here from Modena with your big mouth and wake us up."

Adriano responded, "Well, if you didn't get drunk and fight and play your guitar until 4 in the morning, maybe 10 to 10 would not seem like such a ridiculous time for me to sing a song or chat with my friends."

GC#1 replied, "I ought to come down there and tell you exactly what you can do."

And the fabulous Adriano answered, "Come on down and I'll make coffee!"

The windows to GC#1's home slammed closed.

So nothing has changed or even been accomplished, but it was nice to know we aren't the only ones suffering from lack of private space. All I can do is hope they leave after the New Year's weekend instead of Befana (January 6) and don't return until the spring!

On a better note, it was my first Christmas in Italy. I did not expect the spectacle we make in the States, but was pleasantly surprised by the holiday cheer and not so surprised by the abundance of food.

Christmas week has been beautiful, sunny, crisp and clear. It dipped down to about 15 degrees at night, but you could see all the stars in the sky and hear the whistling of the olives trees. We ended up buying a fake tree (my first) as Luigi said "mi fa penna" at the idea of killing a tree. I was really against it at first, but there are a couple of upsides to the plastic thing. 1) You don't have pine needles to pick up after, and 2) you can bend the branches however you want to place the decorations just right. I have yet to send over all my Christmas ornaments, so the majority of the tree was decorated by the Christmas cards we received (photo attached). I was actually quite satisfied and pleased with my creativity with this Christmas tradition!


My biggest introduction to the Italian holiday season was that of the Christmas cake known as Pantone which has several myths surrounding its origins. One 15th century legend from Milan credits the invention to the nobleman who fell in love with the daughter of a poor baker named Toni. To win her over, the nobleman disguised himself as a baker and invented a rich bread in which he added to the flour and yeast, butter, eggs, dried raisins and candied lemon and orange peel.

Another legend says the cake was when the cook of the court of Skouzas had no dessert to offer. So the guests were given a sweet bread baked by a mere kitchen boy, called Toni, which won general praise. Rather than steal the praise for himself, the cook congratulated his assistant and named it after him.

Whichever might be true, I managed to enjoy my fair share of Panttone, although limiting my intake to only one piece a day (for 7 days). Did you know there are over 50 different types of Pantone that come out at Christmas? And that they stay good for over 5 months? Frightening but true. My favorites so far are the one with chocolate chips and one with vanilla filling. My "suocera", Rossella, bought 18 of them in total and 11 are still sitting in her cantina waiting for a hungry owner. She has insisted I take one to my parents when I visit them at the end of February. Scary enough, it will still be good!

I hope you all enjoying your holiday season - no matter where you are and no matter who might be making noise above you. Enjoy the food, the drink, the fun and most of all, the time with family. "AUGURI" and see you in the new year...


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