southern italian life

An American woman's random thoughts on daily life in southern Italy

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dear Reader,

Psssssst.......this blog is no longer in use. 

If you want to keep up with Saretta's writing and photos, check out 


I'll be waiting for you over there!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

On the road again

I haven't posted for a while because I've been very busy getting ready to leave for the States. We leave in two days and there are lots of last minute details to be taken care of. I say "we" leave but actually only the boys and I are going this year. Much to Francesco's dismay . . . We will be gone for five weeks and he has been missing us since I started talking about the trip last January!

This whole "going on vacation without Dad" issue is quite a loaded one among my ex-pat woman friends here. There are those of us who leave with the kids as soon as school is out and come back in September. Others go ahead for a few weeks with the kids, then the husband joins them in the States for a while and they return together (which is what we have always done so far). Others only go in the company of their partner.

It seems obvious that the best thing to do would be to all travel together, but there are various issues to be considered . . . like that most of us are teachers and have the whole summer off while our husbands don't. Or the fact that we would like our kids to have more than just a passing acquaintance with OUR country and culture . . . which is something that takes time. You can't get a feel for the US in just two weeks.

Anyway, it makes leaving somewhat bittersweet to leave behind someone who is sad about your departure.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Mondiali or World Cup Fever

We are in full swing with the World Cup. Every evening there's another match to watch on TV - and, yes, we have to watch them ALL. Everyone is talking soccer everywhere you go. Every house has an Italian flag hanging off the balcony in a rare state of patriotism. Rare because Italians aren't like us Americans. They don't hang their flag outside the house like we do, they think we're kind of strange because we do! They think Italy is the best place to live, has the best cuisine in the world, there's no place like home, and all that, but they don't have that raging sense of externalised public patriotism that we do.

This state of affairs is a sort of paradise for soccer fans, particularly one here at my house by the name of Danny. He loves to watch any and all sports, both on TV and in person, when possible. But, like all good Italian males, soccer ("calcio" in Italian) is his all-time favorite sport - both to play and to watch.

Last night Italy played against Ghana - and won 2-0. (Poor Ghana, what chance did they have? This is the first year they have played in the World Cup and they went against Italy in their first match!) During the game, regular life as we know it came to a screeching halt. The streets were deserted, there was no traffic, there was no one out taking a "passeggiata" (evening stroll), shops were empty, the only noise that could be heard was that of TVs all tuned to the same station. This strange and unItalian silence was only broken by the shouts of joy at each Italian goal. The shouts are also always accompanied by blaring horns, sirens, air horns and whistles.

I went to the gym. Yes, I knew the game was on - and I knew more or less how all-consuming everyone's interest in it would be - but it never occured to me that the guys at the gym would want to close early to go watch the game. When they saw me walk in at 8:20 p.m. (or 20,20 they would say here - they use the 24 hour clock) their faces fell just about down to the floor. The game started at 9 p.m. so we agreed that I would work out until 8:55 so that they had time to make it home for the game.

The gym was deserted except for my trainer, Sergio (in photo), another old lady who could care less about soccer, and me. At 8:55 sharp we were about to go home when in walked the one and only man in all of Italy who was not interested in the game. I felt pretty guilty at this point . . . if I hadn't stayed that late, Sergio would have already been home watching the game and this guy would have found the gym closed . . .

So, anyway, Italy won the game. And all hell broke loose! When Italy wins a game, all sane people with an instinct for self-preservation stay indoors for at least half an hour. Because all the maniacs go outside and do crazy celebratory sorts of things. They drive around piled 2 and 3 per Vespa waving the Italian flag and blowing their air horns. Others do the same in cars - with the added variant of at least one person hanging three quarters of the way out the window to wave that requisite flag. Needless to say, they all drive too fast and there are lots of accidents. Yay, we're so happy our team won, let's go out and get ourselves killed! Did I mention they burn trashcans, too?

Monday, June 12, 2006

It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To

Parties are meant to be joyous occasions -- and, from the looks of it, this one was no exception. From the looks of it . . . But, behind the scenes lurked disappointment and dismay . . . at least in the mind of the birthday boy. Poor Danny had to suffer a serious of unfortunate events surrounding his birthday party. First of all, on his actual birthday a girl in his class held her party - because the day of her birthday was during the past holiday weekend and no one was here to celebrate with her. The only day she could celebrate was Danny's birthday, so he had to go to someone else's party on his special day. Bummer! He cried and cried about the injustice of it! Then only about half his class could come to his party anyway ... most of the girls were booked up with various recitals or Scout activities. Five friends told us they couldn't make it, but five others just no-showed. As you can imagine, Danny was greatly disappointed and offended by this turn of events . . . another crying session was necessary!

The thing is I can understand just how he must have felt. I can remember being a child and being so hurt by those little injustices (that certainly don't seem so little to you at the time). The hard part is being the mommy trying to help your child through the storm. I know how sad he feels . . . but I also know that these less than perfect situations (euphemism for "problems") help children to grow and understand how things aren't always going to go their way in life.

But I sure wish I had a magic wand to make everything go just right for them!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Train, Train, Train (Train of Fools)

Riding the train to work is a fact of my life here in southern Italy. And, generally, I have few complaints. Okay, the trains aren't ALWAYS on time . . . and a little air-conditioning would be nice in the summer . . . but the train is a convenient, economical way to get where I have to go - without traffic or parking hassles - and it provides me with 2 guaranteed 30 minute blocks of reading time -- very precious to a mother of young children who likes to read - 'cause you KNOW you're not going to get that reading done at home!

And where else in life do you get the chance to OBLITERATE something? That's what they call the process of sticking your ticket into one of these little yellow boxes - "obliterazione." The box prints the time and place of obliteration, so the ticket inspector on the train (if one happens to come by . . .) knows if you paid for your trip. I just like the sound of the word "obliterate," makes me feel like I've really done something big, final . . . I didn't just validate that ticket, no, I obliterated it! Don't ask me about the sign indicating that people with one leg shorter than the other are not allowed . . .

But, then there's the down side of riding the train . . . take yesterday as I was coming home from a long day of work, thinking of nothing but reading my book and eating some Pringles, I happened to notice some unusual activity from the guy sitting across the aisle from me. I won't go into graphic details, but I will say that it's not the first time I've run into a pervert on the train. Another time was much worse, involving full frontal nudity . . . on a crowded train. I don't really know what to do in these cases, I just get up and find a different seat farther down the train, next to a nun if possible. I don't know if screaming, or yelling "what do you think you're doing?" would help the situation or make it worse. I did file a complaint with the railway, but I'm not sure what good that will really do.

Then there's the Fainting Syndrome. I don't know how many times people have fainted while I was on the train. This usually happens during the morning rush hour. When they only schedule one train per hour and everyone and his brother try to squeeze into those few trains, all at the same time, whether there's enough space or not, and all the seats are occupied, and the whole corrider is full of people standing up and the entry area is jam-packed, etc. It gets so hot and stuffy in the coach that you can hardly breathe. How would YOU solve this problem? I don't know . . . maybe, gosh this may be revolutionary . . . open a window to let in some fresh air? But NOOOO, that's not an option. People around here seem to have an abiding fear of DRAFTS. Not the kind that take you off to fight wars you may or may not want to fight, just the kind that move a little air around a closed space. No air must be allowed in . . . someone might catch his death of cold, someone else might get . . . the dread "cervicale"! Which translates as cervical arthrosis and must be the Number One Perceived Illness in all of southern Italy (don't know about the north). My understanding is that it is a degenerative disease and I'm not sure about the link to drafts - but hey, I'm no doctor. And this is a truly deeply rooted belief around here, so, what are you going to do? You can't open the windows, so people faint. It happens at least once a month while I'm riding the train.

But, again, most of my associations with the train are positive. When the boys were about 3 and 5 years old we used to take mini field trips to the station to watch the trains go by. One would pass every blue moon and we would identify it: Regional, Freight and the very exciting, yet rather frightening In Transit Train (they don't stop and speed through the station extremely fast). Between trains we would read storybooks and just sit there and relax - together with all the grandfathers who do the same thing every day with their grandchildren.