Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Nation in Mourning

As everyone knows by now, Italy never made it out of the first round in the Mondiale. This has been a shock to the entire nation and it hasn't been pretty.
Many Italian flags were flown at half staff the day after the horrible loss. The level of anger was beyond belief. We watched as people poured out of their local bars after the game and the yelling and gesticulating was incredible. My nephew pulled down the flag that he had put up on his balcony and tore it to pieces.
The day after the game, the Italian team returned to Rome, only to be met by an angry crowd of hooligans who yelled "Vergognatevi!" (Shame on you!) to the team as they came through the airport. It was disgraceful!
Now things have calmed down a bit and are returning to normal. It's nice to see that all the flags that were hung in front of our bar are still there. Our little neighborhood is not quite so angry as some others.
The news coverage was full of interviews and pundits, each one trying to explain the "humiliation" that was suffered. This truly was a spectacular free fall, after the victory of four years ago. With the elimination of the French and the Italians, who were both in the finals last Mondiale, it's a wide open's just one that no one here is particularly eager to follow this time around.

Carb Attack!

My sister in law, Maria, is a wonderful cook. It's always a treat to be at their place at dinner time. This week, her son Salvatore made his Confirmation, and Maria planned a small reception after the ceremony at their house.
The refreshments were delicious, but I am sure Dr. Atkins was rolling over in his grave at the feast she had prepared. This was a celiac's nightmare!
Maria made a couple of home made pizzas, one with a simple tomato sauce and the other with cheese and potatoes. The latter sounds strange, but it is beyond good. It is a phenomonally tasty dish.
She also prepared a cold pasta salad and a rustic bread into which she mixed pancetta and then baked in a big round pan. It came out about 8 inches tall, dense with yeasty bread and crispy pancetta, the whole thing weighing about five pounds!
For dessert we had tiramisu. We rolled out of there about three hours later, fat and happy...but discovered we couldn't sleep with all that in our stomachs. The price we pay for family solidarity!

Church celebrations

This week was very full of church celebrations. It's the season for Confirmations and First Communions, and we participated in both.
On Thursday, Mike's nephew Salvatore, made his Confirmation. It was held in San Giovanni Battista Church in Aversa. Mike was his sponsor.
Thank goodness it was a relatively cool day, because the church was packed. There were 50 young people making their Confirmation and when you added in all the friends and relatives, along with the regular congregants, it was standing room only.
There was a lovely choir that presented several hymns and of course the Bishop was there to preside over the entire event. The priest at this church is a young man who is very energetic and has helped to rejuvenate the whole parish.
Today, I attended mass at 11 o'clock and it was the first communion mass for our parish in Cervinara. It was such a nice service, but exceptionally long...over 2 hours!
There were four children taking their first communion. They were all dressed the same in beautiful white embroidered robes. The girls both had their done up fancy, with flowers and pearls. The boys were so cute with their sneakers poking out from under their robes. The four of them sat on special chairs that had been draped in white fabric and flowers. There were bundles of white roses on every pew. Once again, it was standing room only.
A girls' choir sang all the prayers and Don Giorgio gave a lengthy homily about the importance of the whole process. There was a photographer there taking pictures of every child during the ceremony.
While I didn't know any of the children involved, it was so nice being able to participate and watch as they took this step forward in their development. It is obvious that the whole church community was very invested in their progress.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A typical day in Cervinara

typical day for us begins with nature's alarm clock; at around 5:30 am the birds wake up and "the hills are alive with the sound of bird song". We generally sleep with our windows open, so their chattering back and forth is what brings us out of a deep sleep. Then Toti, the dog next door starts barking at anything that moves, and invariably someone will start up a chain saw or a weed whacker....and the neighborhood is awake. At 6 am, the church bells ring 10 times. I don't know why 10 times, they are just programmed to do 3 chimes, pause, 3 chimes, pause, 4 chimes.
We get up and go out to the bathroom, then snuggle down under the comforter to read for awhile.
Usually by 8:30 we are up and about.
Breakfast usually consists of latte and orzo ( a kind of grain based coffee substitute, since we are both off caffeine) and some sort of biscotti or bread. One of our favorites is a way to use up the old bread from the day before. We heat up the milk and orzo, put in a little sugar, then pour it over cubes of stale bread. Let it soak in for a bit, then enjoy. It's a very old fashioned breakfast, one inspired by poverty, where even the stale bread had to be consumed. It's actually very tasty.
Our mornings are devoted to our chores. I start preparing the noon meal as soon as breakfast is cleaned up. Then we do our regular sweeping up and swabbing down the place, clearing out the cobwebs and other little critters who like to take up residence. Mike usually has some repair job or organizational chore to do, while I take care of the more domestic issues.
If we are going to go shopping, we must do it before 1 pm because everything closes down from 1-4. We may run down to the hardware store for some item or another, I wait for Carlo to come with his fruits and vegetables, we may do a quick stop to the LIDL store, our local supermarket. All chores, shopping and any visiting must be finished up by 1:00 because that is when it is lunch time. Everyone knows that you do not phone anyone at those hours, nor do you expect to be able to run errands, because the afternoon break is sacred.
The noon meal usually consists of a first course (pasta, soup or rice), followed by a second course (meat, veg or salad), followed by fruit and perhaps coffee. A nap is often called for at this time, or else just an hour of watching TV or reading. At 3:00, it's time for the merenda. This is a small snack or quick little dessert. It may be a little gelato, or a biscotto and coffee, or another piece of fruit. By 4, everyone is back to work, and they will stay there until at least 8-9:00 pm.
At 6:00, the church bells ring again, calling everyone to the evening mass. That usually lasts about an hour. When church gets out, it's like rush hour. All the ladies come out of the church and stroll arm in arm up the hill, chatting and gossiping and discussing the latest news. The sound of this gaggle of women is amazing! Very often, the women will meet up with their husbands who have been spending their time playing cards at the bar. They are secure in the knowledge that their wives have been to church and have prayed to get their husbands into heaven!
We usually have supper around 8 pm. That usually consists of some leftovers from lunch, a salad and some bread and cheese, or perhaps an omelet or a caprese salad. It's light, requires little preparation and is over quickly. A stroll to the piazza may be our evening activity or a visit to the fellows in the bar to chat over the day's business will complete our day. We will watch whatever game is on the TV, or maybe enjoy an episode of Numbers, Murder She Wrote or a Lifetime Network made for tv movie, dubbed into Italian.
We usually head for bed by 10:30-11:00 pm, ready to snuggle under the covers for another night's sleep.
Buona Notte!

Il Mondiale

Everyone knows that the World Cup is being played now in South Africa. This has been the topic of discussion since we arrived over a month ago and now that the tournament has actually begun, it is the focal point of every discussion. One game a day is shown on the regular RAI stations. If you want to see all the games, you must have the premium package. We don't have that, so we are limited to watching constant replays of good or bad plays and listening to sports casters and color commentators expound on the relative merits of any given team. The discussions never end!e
Our street has been festooned with many green, white and red flags. Our little bar is crowded every day with men wanting to watch a game in the company of friends.
We have tended to stay home for our games, preferring to be more comfortable on our sofas rather than crowded around rickety tables. Even if we didn't have the TV on during a game in which Italy is playing, we would know the score. When the opposing team scores a goal, we can here the groans and moans of disbelief all the way into our house. And when they score, the whole neighborhood erupts in screams of joy, horns honking, vuvuzelas blasting and fireworks going off. If they ever decide to win a game, I can't imagine the noise that will emanate from our little hill town!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Favorite Ingredients: How to make a meal out of next to nothing

Porcini mushrooms

We had a visit from our young man of the mountains the other day. Gianluca, who takes care of harvesting our chestnuts, came by to discuss this year's crop. He brought along some wild porcini mushrooms that he had gathered himself. I have seen porcinis for sale at small stands along the side of the road, but hadn't stopped to buy any, so I was thrilled with this little gift.
After Gianluca left, I set to work fixing this treat and getting the rest of our meal ready. My two brothers in law had popped in for a visit so I was scrambling to put together a decent pranzo. First I made up a pot of pasta e piselli, a hearty soup made by cooking up some peas in a broth seasoned with tomatoes, celery leaves, hot pepper flakes and then pasta cooked in the same broth. It's a real peasant style starter course.
After that I grilled up a couple of steaks that I had defrosted in the microwave. These were served with the porcinis, that were sauteed up with a couple of thinly sliced onions. The combination is delicious and even my tough to please brothers in law were happy with their lunch. Dessert consisted of some ice cold slices of watermelon, the first we have had this season. It was sweet and cold, the perfect melon, except for the incredible number of seeds. I have become spoiled after all these years of seedless fruits in the US. In Europe, they are very suspicious of seedless fruit. After all, if there are no seeds, where does the next crop of fruit come from? Good question!
So, many thanks to Gianluca for his wonderful contribution to my last minute meal. I look forward to many more visits with this nice young man!

Fresh tomato sauce

Everyone is convinced that all Italians love the hearty red sauce that comes after hours of simmering tomatoes with sausage, braciole, meatballs etc. But in reality, what we really appreciate more than anything is a quick sauce made up with the simplest of ingredients; fresh pomodorini, olive oil, a little salt and some fresh basil.
Whenever I am at a loss as to what to fix for a quick meal, this is a go-to option. First, I put a pot of water on to boil. Then I take some pomodorini (cherry or grape style tomatoes), slice them in half, toss them into a little saucepan with some olive oil and let them cook. If they aren't real juicy I will add a little bit of water to them as they cook down. Salt to taste. By the time the pasta is cooked, the tomatoes are ready to go. Toss them all together and top with some torn up basil leaves, some pecorino cheese and maybe another little drizzle of olive oil. It is done in 10 minutes and there is nothing more satisfying! Buon appetito.
Sometimes when I make this sauce in the States, I am disappointed by the outcome. It all comes down to the tomatoes! When they are fresh, local and perfect, the sauce will be too. Remember, sometimes the simplest dishes are the best!
I just reread this little piece and realized that I included myself as an Italian. I guess the move here has made me rethink my heritage. This is a far cry from the swamp Yankee upbringing I had! Who would have thought that this is where this descendant of a Mayflower pilgrim would have ended up?

Fusilli with green beans, potato and pesto

A few years ago I read a recipe that intrigued me in the New York Times. It called for pasta, potatoes, green beans and odd combination of ingredients. I have made it a couple of times over the years and it is always a nice change of pace.
Carlo, our fruttivendolo, had some lovely green beans on his truck today. I had just purchased a jar of pesto yesterday at the market so I knew immediately what I would be making for lunch. I put a pot of water on to boil and into it I put the green beans that I had snapped and broken into bite size pieces, and a couple of small potatoes that I had peeled and diced. When the salted water came to a boil I added 1/2 pound of fusilli pasta. The whole thing cooked for about 13 minutes. When it was drained (I did hold back 1/4 cup of pasta water to thin things down a bit), I added 1/2 small jar of the pesto, some fresh chopped basil leaves and a little dash of olive oil. I topped it with some pecorino cheese.
This is a very different dish, but it is so tasty and satisfying. If Carlo keeps stocking those beans, we may be seeing this for lunch again!

As a child, I never liked olives. They were so salty and bitter; the green ones had those slimy little pimentos in them, the black ones tasted like the can they came in. Who would want to eat those nasty little things.
Now, olives are a part of almost every meal. We are lucky to have markets near by where the olives are sweet, meaty and wonderful. I only buy the "white" olives, which is how the green olives are called in Italian.
We go to the counter and ask for a kilo of olives. The clerk takes a big scoop and dips it into the vat of olives, pours them into a plastic bag and pops them on the scale. I always ask for "un assaggio", a taste, just to make sure that they are still good. After they are weighed, the clerk adds some more liquid, ties up the bag and pops it into another plastic bag. Now they are ready to dress up our salads and cheese platters.
We have searched for olives that can match these beauties at home in the states, to no avail. So, we'll pack some up for our return trip and ration them out a few at a time. These are too good to miss!

Mozzarella di buffala
Do you remember the mozzarella that we used to buy in the supermarket? Those bricks of rubbery cheese that were dry and tasteless? Who would have thought that mozzarella could be moist, flavorful and a meal in and of itself?
We are now able to get pseudo- mozzarella in the states, and it is certainly better than the pre-packaged stuff, but in no way can it compare to the fresh mozzarella di buffala that is only available in the Campania region. It is moist, rich and with a unique and wonderful flavor. Once you've tried it, it's tough to go back to to the old stuff.
In our region, family wars can break out over where to buy the mozzarella. You bought at Caputo's instead of Schiavone's? Are you crazy? At Nanni's they throw in a free fresh ricotta if you buy a kilo of mozzarella, but the mozzarella isn't as fresh as the ones at Diana's.
Freshness is key when buying and eating mozzarella di buffala. If it's still warm from the cooking, that is when it's the best. Once it's a few hours old, it's OK, but is past its prime. If it's a day old, it's really only good for cooking. Of course for those of us who don't have the luxury of fresh mozzarella every day, the best we can hope for is that which is packed in Styrofoam boxes and stuffed into suitcases brought home by relatives who have been in Italy. It's not the best, but it's wonderful to have even a shadow of the taste of the original product.
So, now that we are here for the long term, we are taking advantage of the mozzarella that is readily available. At least twice a week we head to our caseificio to pick up a couple of balls of the creamy white cheese. I make up a tomato salad with some sweet green olives, cut a couple of chunks of good fresh bread and dinner is served! It's a perfect go-to meal and is always sure to please.

Trattoria 41, Cervinara

Trattoria 41, Cervinara
We went to the Trattoria 41 after a Sunday morning excursion to Benevento. It was a beautiful, warm day and we wanted some good home-style cooking. We were not disappointed!
The 41 is a family affair, run in an old building a couple of blocks behind the Cervinara town hall. After going through the entry gate, we found ourselves in a courtyard of an old house. On the right was a three basin sink, carved out of a huge block of stone. One of the basins had a wash board type of area carved out of the same stone. It must have been a very convenient spot for doing the laundry a hundred years or so ago, much more convenient than going to the fountains in the piazzas to do that chore.
We were seated and a young woman came and told us about the various dishes that would be available that day. We chose to split an antipasto platter that was the house specialty and that included some cold cuts, mozzarella, grilled veggies and some good fresh bread. After the antipasto we opted for a pasta course. Mike had tagliatelle (home made) with a sauce made with local porcini mushrooms and ground beef. I had orecchietti with a variety of vegetables (eggplant, roasted peppers, zucchini). Both dishes were wonderful, but Mike's sauce was a little heavily salted. Mine was perfect!
We opted to skip the second course and head straight for dessert. There was only one item on the menu, a little tart filled with a lovely lemon cream. Yum. We had a 1/2 bottle of local red wine to accompany our meal. The price? Only 20 euros for the entire affair! By the way, no tipping is necessary, so the bill is what the bill is.
We will be back to 41 often, as it is only a couple of miles from our house and it is certainly worth the trip!


My friend Cyndi says that a successful blog about Italy has to have either lots of torrid sex with swarthy, sexy Italians, or lots of food. The swarthy, sexy Italians, except for dear hubby, are not in great supply, so I guess I will have to try to satisfy my readers with food porn. There's lots to discuss when it comes to Italians and their food, and I will regularly post some of my latest culinary adventures.
We have had some wonderful meals over the years in Italy, and this year is no different. We have enjoyed both great restaurants and, if I do say so myself, some pretty good home cooked meals. Here is one of our latest dining experiences. It was a real treat!

The Agriturismo I Borboni

We happened upon I Borboni after an outing to the Reggia di Carditello. The Reggia was a royal palace built by the Bourbon kings as a hunting "cottage". At the time, the Bourbons were in control of most of southern Italy, and there are vestiges of their reign all over the region. Carditello is in the process of being repaired and brought back to some level of its prior glory.
The agriturismo I Borboni takes its name from those Bourbon kings. Upon leaving the reggia grounds, we followed the signs indicating this restaurant, keeping our fingers crossed for a good outcome. Just a couple of miles beyond the reggia, the signs indicated a right hand turn into a small dirt road through fields of grape vines, tobacco and vegetables. After another 1/2 mile or so, we turned left into a stone driveway and were greeted by a parking attendant overseeing a huge parking lot. Next to the parking lot was an elaborate area of a children's playground, complete with monkey bars, slides, faux forts, ropes to climb etc. Beyond the play area was a very large restaurant, with seating both inside an air conditioned room and outside under a canopy. The entire area was festooned with pots of flowers, adding to the wonderful feeling of being out in nature.
We were seated inside, because all the tables outside were already reserved. We got there just after 12 noon, early for lunch. The staff was having their lunch, so we chatted as we watched the various dishes that were brought to them in the dining area. We knew that good things were to come!
After 20 minutes or so the feast began. No menus were available, no decisions to be made. Everything was prepared according to a small army of women who ruled over the kitchen. It was all based on what products were available or in season, and what the cooks felt would be the best mix of ingredients and preparation techniques.
The antipasto consisted of plate after plate of tasty little tidbits; prosciutto, salami and cheese, eggplant rolatini, grilled zucchini, stuffed pepper, stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, potatoes tossed in olive oil, frittata, little zucchini blossom fritters, buffalo mozzarella and a platter of "per e muso", a neapolitan "treat" of pigs feet and snout, cooked up and served cold with a squeeze of lemon on it. I decided to pass on that specialty!
We took our time enjoying these lovely little mouthfuls. A half hour later, our waiter asked if we were ready for our "first course" or would we rather wait a bit. We all voted to wait! Eventually, he came out with the pasta dish. This consisted of two varieties of pasta, potato gnocchi and a manicotto, served in a traditional red sauce. By this point we were at the bursting point, but the fun wasn't over.
After another little while, out came the meat course. This consisted of grilled pork, beef, sausage and chicken that had been cooked over an open wood fire. At one end of the dining room, a hefty fellow wielded a butcher's cleaver with strength and skill, hacking apart ribs and wings and then tossing them onto the grill. He continually stirred and turned the meat until it was all cooked perfectly. Along with the meat, our waiter brought us a green salad and some french fries. We were ready to cry uncle!
All of these lovely dishes were accompanied by bottles of water and a great local red wine that complemented the entire meal perfectly. The only thing left was the dessert, and we knew it would be special. The sweet of the day was a nice little tiramisu, served with strawberries on the side.
When the bill came, we were shocked....25 euros per person for an incredible feast that would easily have cost double or triple that in a US restaurant. It was a real treat.
Now a word about what was going on around us as we had our lunch. There were several groups of people celebrating family events; first communions, baptisms and graduations. The room held about 300 people and every table was full. The noise level got higher and higher and it became more and more apparent that baby sitters are not used in southern Italy! Every group had children, from new borns to toddlers to school age youngsters. It also became apparent that most of these children rule the roost and have no idea that they are not in control, because apparently they ARE the ones who are in control. Parents would yell at them to sit down and were ignored. Children started carrying off the carts on which the waiters were carrying the food. One group started pulling up the carpet at the entrance to the room. It was chaos! It's always nice to see people out as families, and children being included in celebrations. It would be nicer to see children who respected the belongings of others and parents who would instruct their children in the proper way to behave in public.
That said, we had a lovely day, a lovely meal and enjoyed a lovely bit of history.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Church life in a small Italian town

We attended a funeral for my sister-in-law's father on the 27th of June. This was not in Cervinara, but in his home town of Aversa. Aversa is a bigger city, but many of the traditions are not so different from those here in the hills. It was an interesting cultural experience.
Vincenzo Palmieri died on the 26th of June, at home. There was no preparation of the body besides the daughters washing and dressing his body.
Family and friends called at the house all day, then at 3:00 pm, the funeral people brought the casket upstairs and placed the body in it. They brought it down the stairs and we all formed a procession where we followed the hearse to the church. The procession was led by the priest and we blocked traffic for the several hundred yards we walked to the church. As the procession passed, everyone on the sidewalk stopped, made the sign of the cross...some old men saluted the casket, and then we went on to the church, where the door was draped in purple. There was a mass, then the body was taken to the cemetery. During the mass, a neighborhood dog wandered in and came down the aisle, sniffed around for a bit, went up on the altar, then left. So helped ease some of the tension. The next day the family went back to the cemetery and the body was placed in its niche in the family chapel. This was the first funeral I have attended in Italy and it was interesting to see how the people approach this step in life.

Religious processions are an integral part of church life here. In the month that we have been in Cervinara, I have participated in two such events; the first for Corpus Domini and the second for the feast of Sant'Antonio da Padova.
For the feast of Corpus Domini, the church bells started ringing at 6 pm. That was the signal for all interested parties to gather at the church. As I walked down the street, I noticed that all the houses that faced the street had beautiful linens hanging from the front of the houses. Tablecloths, bed spreads, sheets....anything that was embroidered or with lace or cut work was on display. Also, many people had prepared an altar in front of their homes, in preparation for the procession that would pass by.
The procession started with a group of children with baskets of flower petals. The petals were strewn in front of the statue of Christ that was on a cart pulled by some of the young parish men. Then came the priest, under an embroidered canopy that was carried by six other men. One fellow had an elaborate umbrella that would serve as shade for the priest when he stopped by to pray in front of the various altars. The priest who led this procession was Father Antonio Raviele. He had baptized our daughter Marta back in 1982, when he was still a "student priest". He was such a handsome young man then and he hasn't changed much, except for his full head of gray hair.
There was a cantor with a microphone, and speakers were pulled along the route as well. She would sing various hymns and the people participating in the procession all sang along. Then we would stop at each altar, the priest would say special prayers, we would all give the appropriate responses, and then we would move on. At various times, women from the houses along the route would come out and scatter rose petals in front of the procession.
We wended our way up the hill to the Castello section, then turned around and started back down. This whole time, the streets were blocked and no one was able to get by in car or motorcycle. When we got back to the church, there was a service during which more hymns were sung and prayers recited. It was a lovely event, very moving and inspirational.
The following Sunday was the feast of Sant'Antonio da Padova. Once again the church bells called us to gather at 6 pm. This time however, there were also fireworks that went off in the vacant lot across the street. Children in red and white robes led the procession, and the statue of the saint was pushed along by women. These women had made a promise to Sant'Antonio that they would carry his image in every procession, in response to a prayer being answered. Only on the steepest parts of the route did they accept help with their task.
As the procession went along, songs and prayers were sung, and people came out of their homes to make an offering to the saint. As the money was accepted by one of the church members, prayer cards were given in return. The procession stopped at every home along the way, where the donations and offerings were accepted.
My favorite part of this event had no religious significance, but it was a special and funny moment. As the group arrived at the top of the hill, the children were all hot and tired and were offered paper cups of water with which to refresh themselves. A couple of the kids threw their empty cups on the ground. The cantor, a young woman of about 30, grabbed the cross from the oldest boy who was leading the group, cuffed him upside the head and told him in no uncertain terms that he should be ashamed of himself for littering and that he would go and pick up what he had thrown away, if he knew what was good for him. He obeyed, immediately, as did all the other miscreants who had littered!
This was a much longer procession and took over an hour to complete. Upon arriving at the church again, another set of fireworks went off, and then another brief service inside the church. All in all, it was another lovely event.
The 6 pm mass is an important time of day here. There are usually about 30 women who attend on a daily basis, starting with the rosary and then the mass. Don Giorgio, our regular priest, is quite elderly now and can't handle the processions, but he does preside over every mass. He has been the priest here for the 37 years that I have been coming to Italy and I can't imagine this church without him. He and his sister live right across the street from us.
One funny thing about the daily evening mass....there are three or four men who also attend and, regardless of where they are sitting in the congregation, they always are first in line for communion. It's almost like the dinner table, where the men are always served's just assumed that they will get the communion first and all the women wait for them to do so. Feminism hasn't really worked its way this far up into the hills yet!
I am starting to learn some of the prayers in Italian, but it will be awhile before I can actually actively participate in the services. It is quite a pleasant ritual, that break in the evening for some spiritual contemplation and quiet time. Even if one isn't particularly religious, taking time during the course of a busy day is important, and the church bell ringing is a reminder for us to take that time.

Daily life in Cervinara, our little corner of Italy.

Cervinara is in the province of Avellino, in the region of Campania. We are about a 45 minute train ride from Naples. It is still a pretty small town, and we are in the oldest section of it, way up the mountain. The houses here  can be several hundred years old, but most have been restructured and modernized. Our house is a couple of hundred years old. The keystone over our portone ( big front gate) is dated 1802, so I know we go back at least that far.
We look out our back window, and the mountain rises immediately beyond our property. There is a river that is usually dried up, but it has some water in it now. It was this river that destroyed a good portion of our part of town and killed four people 11 years ago when it flooded and brought tons of mud and debris from the mountain. It took out our yard, the fruit and nut trees, and deposited some huge boulders in their place.
My life is pretty calm and quiet now. It is nice to follow the routine that has been in place for generations. Three days a week, the fruttivendilo comes by in his truck. He has a loud, siren like horn that announces his arrival. Depending on what he has on his truck, all the housewives decide their lunch menu. They always yell at Carlo,saying that his fruit is no good and his vegetables are over ripe, then they buy it anyway, but not at the full price. Today I picked up 6 apples, a small cantaloupe, two peppers, a head of lettuce, a kilo or so of sweet tomatoes...all for 5 euros. I'm not going to complain! There are other truck vendors who come through; there is the clothes guy who comes around about once a week, with some basic clothing items for the local ladies, there is the detergent guy who will open his trunk to display household cleaners, TP, hygiene products etc, and there is the plastic guy who comes around with buckets, mops, brooms etc. It's interesting and handy, since most of the ladies up here don't seem to drive. When the fruttivendolo comes around, there is an armada of women in black who come out of their houses to pick up their items....all wearing aprons and sensible shoes...and of course black skirts and tops.
There are other random vendors as well. The other day a big truck came up. It was laden down with furniture (sofas, chairs, mattresses), tools, ladders and step stools, and who knows what else. We bought a step ladder from him. Our neighbor Pasquale told us we spent too much, but it was convenient and we did need that ladder. Sometimes a fellow comes up with a pushcart. He has things like T shirts, summer clothes for the kids etc. I feel very bad for him, pushing his huge cart up the hills; it is a lot of work for not too much reward I fear.
Our house is old, and can get cold and damp. We have no heat and when it rains or after sundown, it is really chilly! We have a comforter on our bed, but I am still sleeping in my flannel nightgown. Mike sleeps in his flannel PJs and a hoody! But when the sun is shining like today, it is indescribably delicious. Quiet, except for the sound of the church bells at 6, 12 and 6....the bark of a dog, the chatter of the men playing cards at the bar....just lovely.
We have a pizzeria up the hill and we go there about once a week for a pizza cooked in the wood burning oven. We get our bread from the baker down the hill, kilo loaves baked in the wood burning oven too. What a crust that bread has! We go down to the center of town almost every day, we visit the hardware store for supplies or the butcher for some meat cut to order. In the evening we walk about 10 minutes to the Piazza Elena, which is our local piazza. It's a pleasant walk and we can sit on the benches or just pick up an ice cream and walk home.
We are currently working on some renovations to the house, and have a couple of workers here now replacing some tiles from the courtyard and fixing our bathroom roof.
Speaking of bathrooms, they are outside! We have to go out on our balcony at night and walk the length of the house down to our BR, and if we don't remember to plug in the water heater the night before, we don't have hot water for a shower in the morning. Same with doing the dishes....I have to turn on our little water heater under the kitchen sink to have hot water to do the dishes.
I love my little washing machine, but it takes forever to go through a cycle. Then I schlep the laundry upstairs and hang it out on the wires that are strung from the balcony. The sun really cooks those clothes and dries them very quickly.
I have done lots of work cleaning out closets and cabinets and trying to organize much of the clutter here. This house has been a depository for everybody's extra stuff for so many years, the accumulation of stuff is incredible. I have been filling garbage bags full! Speaking of garbage, there is a very complicated system for pick up. Three days a week I can put out "umido" which is food stuff. Three days a week I can put out "nero" which is non-recyclable stuff. One day a week for paper. Two days for plastic and aluminum. Glass goes in the recycling bin up the hill across from the pizzeria. Thankfully, our neighbor wrote out the schedule for me, otherwise I would be clueless!
I have been cooking like a real Italian housewife, with our noon meal the main meal of the day. Around 12:30 - 1:00, everything stops and everyone goes home for dinner. Today I made papardelle with fresh tomato sauce, a little grilled steak with mushrooms and onions and some salad. For dessert we had watermelon and cherries from our neighbor's tree. Topped off with a nice little red wine and we are both happy campers.

How did I get here?

This adventure of mine, moving to a small Italian town, started a couple of years ago. My husband Michele, was born in Italy and moved to the US in 1967. We met in 1969, started dating in 1970 and got married in 1973. He was an Italian citizen when we got married, so after three years of marriage, I became a citizen as well (which was completely unknown to me).
In 1980, he took his American citizenship and in doing so, he lost his Italian citizenship. I however, did not. While preparing to retire, Michele decided to reacquire his Italian citizenship (dual citizenship now being allowed), so we made a trek to NYC to the Italian consulate to see about completing the paper work etc. Much to our surprise, we discovered that I, and our daughters, were all recognized as Italians, while my husband was not! I agreed to "sponsor" him as a resident of Italy, and to support him financially if necessary.
So, after retiring in 2009, we made our initial move to Italy. Our first foray into life here began in September of 2009 and ended in November of that year. These two months were dedicated to unraveling the incredible bureaucracy that comes with trying to do any task here. To establish residency here, you must notify the town in which you will be residing and must show title to a property, a lease agreement, or have signed permission from a relative with whom you will be living. Then you must await a visit from the Vigile Urbano (local police), who will verify that you do indeed live at the stated address. We waited over three weeks, then called upon a friend who had just retired from the police force. He called upon his friends on the force to give us our approval. After that, we had to go back to town hall, photos and documents in hand, to get our carta d'identita. From then we could start the process of registering our car (that took a total of six months!), getting our sanita cards (health care), and our codice fiscale (social security cards). Michele had to go in to Caserta several times to file himself as an extracommunitaro (an alien from outside the European community), and to apply for citizenship again. He should get his citizenship back in another year or so!
So, here we are, back in Italy. We arrived on June 20 and will be here for almost six months. We have established ourselves as legal residents and we are becoming accepted into the community. Life here is slower, but with its own unique sets of challenges. I hope to share some of these adventures with you all as we wend our way through my life in Cervinara.