An Ischia Italy postcard calls your name. Can’t you just picture yourself diving into that picture? On this Neapolitan island neighboring Capri and Procida, you will find many beaches that allow you to escape everyday life. While falling asleep on the sand, you will dream long and hard. Anything will seem possible. You’ll feel stronger and prettier. There’s something about a lazy day on the beach that is inspirational. It’s almost like going to church. You’re renewed.
Italian wedding vows are classic. If you marry in the Catholic Church in Italy – like I did nearly 9 years ago – then you say the same stuff. You just say it in Italian instead of English or whatever your native language. But now that I’m a veteran Italian wife, I decided the vows should be longer and more specific. Most of all, they should be honest. Don’t let these newlyweds go into marriage thinking it’s always going to be cannoliand prosecco.
What Italians Should Promise to Their Beloved
I,___, take you,____, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold…But first we must make a few promises. Say them out loud, get them in writing, and never risk divorce.
The Mother-in-Law Guarantee in Italian Wedding Vows
I promise to remain your husband/wife despite your mom’s constant criticism of my
I also promise to stay with you no matter how many times your mom tries to have me taken out. No matter how many times. (It bears repeating.)
I promise to have you, hold you, and feed you prosciutto on a regular basis. We will always choose fresh mozzarella over that cheese that passes for mozzarella. It’s the real Reggiano-Parmigiano in our house. May the tomatoes always be fresh, and the lemons ever growing on our tree of life. By the power vested in Nonna, we will never ever eat sauce from a can or jar. Never. We must linger over our meal at least once a week. Sundays will be for pasta forever. Every now and then, we’ll get spicy in the kitchen, too. And there’s always room for gelato.
Our love will always come before my job. The kids will come before everything else for a little while, but you get it. I will never come between you and your family. You will do the same for me. (Again, this is how it will be no matter what crazy our mothers display. The crazy is pretty much guaranteed, and I accept that.)
How to Argue Like an Italian Couple
We recognize our passion might be overkill in an argument. So, we promise to take a time out from fighting when the hand gestures start getting nasty and the normally loud voice gets even louder. Certainly, we will compromise and apologize to each other first. But we also promise to apologize to our neighbors for whatever they end up hearing. Let’s face it, they’re gonna hear us. Of course, no one makes up like an Italian. And we promise to keep making up like that for the rest of our days. We can apologize to the neighbors for that noise, too.
As we grow old and get fat together (after the foodie promises that’s a given), I will still find you sexy. I will continue to compliment you. Your mind will always attract me. Of course, I will grab your ass every chance I get. Yes, oh, yes, we will always have sex, and I’ll be a generous lover. This I promise you from now until death do we part.
Giardini La Mortella in Ischia, Italy, an island off the coast of Naples, gives visitors some tranquility. The beautiful plants and flowers provide the backdrop for a leisurely walk. Even though you sometimes have to climb steep steps, you feel at ease. There are waterfalls, whose natural music is welcoming. An aviary filled with majestic birds catches the eye and elicits gratitude for nature. When you’re feeling down, a piece of lemon Caprese cake will lift you up. I ate it a decade ago, and I still remember it. Every so often, the gardens become a concert venue. I can only imagine how delightful it must be to hear the strumming of a violin amid all this beauty.
The gardens are the creation of Susana Walton, the late Argentine wife of British composer Sir William Walton. Designed by his is the home to both subtropical and mediterranean plant life. Many of the species are exotic and not easily maintained on the island. In 1956, Susana Walton turned to landscape designer Russell Page, who envisioned a plan to include the view of the sea and the volcanic rock formations naturally in the garden.
A Tour of La Mortella in Photos
Located in the town of Forio in Ischia, the gardens are displayed in two levels. The lower level is called the Valley, and the upper level is known as the Hill. From the top, you can take in the view of the stunning San Francesco beach in Forio. In the Orchid House, you will find some beauties. In fact, there is an orchid hybrid that was created in honor of Susana Walton because of her passion for gardening and contributions to the community.
The Old Man
Take a Seat
On the other hand, one of the most memorable parts of my walks through La Mortella is this olive tree. It is hundreds of years old and truly spectacular.
Truly, seeing this chair carved out of a tree stump is a whimsical touch. Indeed, there are many objects like this at La Mortella.
When you turn a corner, and see this life-size alligator figure amid these short cascades of water, don’t be frightened. Simply put, it’s a touch of humor.
After you have photographed lots of plant life, you might opt for a selfie. This bamboo makes for a lovely backdrop.
When Water Falls
Just when you think you can’t be any more relaxed, you hear this – the sound of running water. The various fountains around the gardens are as beautiful as they are soothing.
Let the Light Shine
This little nook in the gardens is typical of Ischia. The wall, fountain, and moss harken to the island’s beginnings. Known as L’Isola Verde or the Green Island, Ischia offers many scenes just like this.
Being One with Nature
In fact, gardens like this are a perfect fit on the Green Island. While religion is not at the forefront of the images in the gardens, there is a spirituality that resonates. Statues like this capture the mood and make for an appropriate accent.
La Mortella is a great place to take a stroll. You can unwind and witness breathtaking views worthy of photographs. Even if you don’t have a camera, you will carry the images in your memory for years to come.
Yesterday my 5-year-old son told Nonna he was asking Jesus to send us a second baby. “He’ll be my friend,” he said. My eyes welled up with tears. At the moment, we’re in Italy. Here, he has much older cousins and is constantly surrounded by teenagers and adults. He’s lonely. It breaks my heart. I can not relate.
When I was his age, I had my brother, who is a year younger than I am. Our baby sister had just arrived. My father is the youngest of nine; my mother is the oldest of six. We were close to all our first cousins – and there are many of them. They were in our house all. the. time. I consider them, in fact, to be just like my siblings. We all lived within a 5-mile radius growing up. To be honest, most of us still live pretty close to one another. That’s probably why my husband and I had nearly 30 people in our American bridal party when my husband and I got married.
Guilt and Sadness Enough to Choke You
In previous posts, I’ve expressed how guilty I feel about failing to produce a sibling for my son. Despite his Italian passport and frequent visits to Italy, he is missing out on being Italian. Our big, intrusive but loving family makes us the most Italian. When he sits in our apartment in Italy or home in the United States all alone in a room, I feel it. I sense the doom. He will never have a constant playmate for make believe or even with whom to argue for attention.
True, in America he has two first cousins who are close in age to him. They are together virtually everyday when we’re in the country. My mother and often I take care of them while their parents work. But with every passing year, their time with us gets shorter. They live in a different town and have more and more responsibilities associated with school. My brother and sister-in-law carve out time to be with them, of course. When their parents are home, they don’t need us, rightfully so. A time will come when they are old enough to stay on their own and won’t need grown ups tending to them all the time. I dread the day.
Where Has the Family Gone?
What gets me to cry is when I think far into the future. What will happen if my son wants to have kids of his own? They will have no first cousins – at least not on his side of the family. Our cousins were our whole world. The biggest sense of belonging my son has had is with his two cousins. I feel responsible for failing to give my future grandchildren cousins of their own.
The broken family – not divorce mind you – is what’s killing us all now. The fact that we’re all disconnected from a community of people is our poison. We’ve lost the chosen family that used to be friends and neighbors. And we’re losing our extended family. We’re far away from those we still have. And we’re not creating more relatives. Yes, there is overpopulation. So, it’s better for the environment. But the heart is still lost.
It’s Economics, Stupid!
These losses stem mainly from economics. Pressures to find jobs, keep jobs, and earn money is one factor. It moves us all over the place, so we’re no longer physically near loved ones. The demands of our jobs force us to spend less and less time with our family anyway. By not being near loved ones, who might be able to tend to children, we have to invest in costly child care. Sometimes, even if we are near family, we have no choice if everyone is working. Now, with all the digital devices keeping us linked to work all day, it’s a wonder we are still having children at all. That is not even to mention the extraordinary costs of health care and higher education in the United States. Who can afford one child, let alone two or more?
So, thinking about having a second child makes me think I’m being greedy. We can’t financially afford another child. Actually, I suppose we could, but it would be hard. It’s hard enough already with one. I feel selfish for wanting to ask a baby, not to mention our first child, to make the necessary sacrifices. For one, they would be foregoing time with us. We’d have to work more to support us all. And they’d be giving up some luxuries for sure. Certainly, some of that would be character building. And a baby to enrich our family would be better than any treats, such as a nice vacation or eating out. But just paying for the necessities could be tough. You never know what could happen down the road. That hardly seems fair to little ones.
How Many Miracles Can One Person Get?
Never did I face the infertility struggles of some of the women of my generation. I was never injecting myself with anything, nor did I have one doctor’s appointment after another. I didn’t even take any medications to get pregnant. But we suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage that turned our world dark for a long while. And I do not ovulate, thanks to polycystic ovaries. So, it’s not easy to get pregnant. It happened twice. The second time, we were blessed with our son.
We had prayed and prayed to Jesus for a child. We lit candles asking St. Gerard to help us. Honestly, we’re not the most religious people in the world. But prayer and a little faith gave us hope. Indeed, our son arrived. Our baby has brought us so much love and joy. We are grateful. Every child is a miracle to his or her parents. It’s overwhelming. To ask for a second baby seems wrong. It seems like we’re asking for too much, more than anyone deserves.
In Ischia, Italy, an island off the coast of Naples, these one of these “drumsticks” is called a “bacio.” Woop! Woop! Bacio is the Italian word for kiss. Smooches to summer! Inside the chocolate shell and various toppings is hazelnut gelato.
Summer activities can keep the mind and body active when school’s out. The problem is figuring out which activities best serve this goal. Of course, you want to balance some of the more educational pursuits with old fashioned fun. After all, you’re only a kid once. You want those summer memories to be magical and last a lifetime. In 2016, I had some success planning summer activities that appealed to the kids and were helpful. In other words, they were school ready come September. Discover what you can do this season:
I took a page out of the book of my son’s pre-school teachers. I made a calendar and dedicated each week of August to a particular theme. With so many ideas, I could have easily done this all summer long. For each day of the themed weeks, I would come up with a craft and a more educational activity. The week would culminate in an excursion or event (more on those below). For example, for Dinosaur Week, the kids put together dinosaur “bones,” which were actually cotton swabs, to look like fossils. Then, we broke open dinosaur eggs that I made using flour and coffee grounds with plastic dinos hidden inside. We had a dinosaur workbook and some other related books to read. The kids learned about the T-rex, triceratops, and brachiosaurus. Then, we would incorporate math lessons into the theme by counting dinosaurs, for example. Turtle week, superhero week (which was really about healthy eating and exercise), and kindness week rounded out the themes.
Books are a mom’s best friend. So, I picked up workbooks for each of the kids at the dollar store and on Zulily. I opt for the ones that are for the child’s upcoming grade. Some covered all subjects. Others were just about reading or just about math. Then, I would get a few fun ones, such as the dinosaurs workbook (which was also age appropriate). More recently, I purchased books for a $1 each at Target. The subjects of those books included the solar system, sharks, U.S. presidents, historic events, and the 50 states. I plan to incorporate them into new themed weeks this year. In the morning, even when we’re in Italy during the summer, my son spends about an hour doing “homework.” Some of the books are thick and others he finishes in one sitting. Either way, he’s brushing up on skills. Today, for instance, he went over colors, practiced writing his first and last name, and traced lines to work on handwriting.
Getting out into the world is a must during the summer. After all, for many people, this is the best time of year to take advantage of the outdoors. So, I tried to work a weekly outing into the theme weeks. We ended turtle week at Liberty Science Center, where we could see actual turtles and the traveling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit. During that week, we sung the Alphabet Song along with the TMNT characters, thanks to a YouTube video. We made a turtle out of a paper bowl and learned about different kinds of turtles. So, it all perfectly led up to our Friday trip to the science center. Then, we ended Dinosaur Week at Field Station Dinosaurs. Sometimes, we created stay-at-home events to fit our theme, and they were just as much fun.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money or even leave home to show the kids a good time. And teach them something, too. At the end of Superhero week, I hosted “Field Day.” I set up all the sports equipment we own, a few cones, and some mats in the backyard. We played tee ball and soccer. We threw around a football. Finally, we had some running races. I made the kids Field Day t-shirts with iron-ons cut on my Cricut. Then, the kids made their own victory badges. Also, they helped make a healthy lunch. Winning! The kids might forget lessons on formulas and sharks, but they will always have the memories.
Puglia is underrated among tourists. Overshadowed by Tuscany, Venice, and Florence to the north and Sicily and islands, such as Capri, to the south, the capital Bari and its surrounding area offer hidden gems. Much like Naples in Campania, the area is grittier than most tourists prefer. But if you know where to visit, you can be safe and enjoy some must-see places. Long ago, before we were married and had our son, my husband and I ventured to Puglia. It. was. epic. See below for some highlights from our trip. You should put these sites on your bucket list:
We saw Puglia by car. The signs are easy to read and follow. My husband and I got a kick out of the town named Monopoli. We had a long-running inside joke with my parents about the game. We took this picture with them in mind. The Grotte di Castellana called our name. We had hoped to see the animals at the Zoosafari in nearby Fasano. But it was closed the day we were in town. Just our luck. Maybe someday we’ll get back there. I’ve heard good things.
Grotte di Castellana
The Grotte di Castellana are a study in science and a tourist attraction. Found in the town of Castellana Grotte, they are underground cavities, where limestone has eroded. Over time, this limestone has formed a landscape brimming with fissures, sinkholes, ridges, and towers. The most impressive scenery is the stalagmite and stalactite covering the ground and roof respectively. A museum neighbors the caverns. There, people can get a deeper understanding of the natural wonders they just visited.
In Alberobello, you might feel as though you’ve arrived in a giant Smurf village. The round rooftops of the houses, known as trulli, are among 51 sites in Italy on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. They are stunning. We looked at the town from above on a flat rooftop, and all you could see were these charming homes that didn’t even look real lining the streets. It was lovely to walk through the streets and just take in the scene. I also really enjoyed the shopping, which included many handmade souvenirs.
Pottery Offers Pizzazz
While I would never lug one of these babies home, I couldn’t help but photograph them. They were gorgeous. And the pottery piled together like that looked like a painting. The setting sun only added to the artistry. Although I was sad a vase of this stature was too big a purchase to bring home with me, I found other souvenirs. All these years later, I still cherish the treasures from Alberobello. I bought some beautifully decorated bath towels for relatives. Also, I found hand embroidered towels with images of the trulli on them. We still keep a mini trulli replica front and center in our china closet. The trip was a long time ago, but the memory lives on in our hearts.
Shellfish is popular in many Italian restaurants. In Italy and abroad, you will find popular dishes, such as linguine con le vongole (linguine with clams). Or you might prefer shrimp fra diavolo, which is a little spicy. When you order one of these beauties in Italy, be prepared for judgment. Everyone agrees that shellfish is divine there, especially in southern Italy. But there are rules for eating it. And many foreigners, especially Americans, are clueless about them. Discover what you need to know before sitting down at a restaurant:
Fresh Is the Best
What makes these dishes so delectable in Italy is the freshness. As Americans, we are often getting fish the restaurant manager bought at the Restaurant Depot. It’s fine and all. But when I’m in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples that is home of my ancestors and husband, I’m seeing my meal get plucked from the ocean moments before it is cooked and served. Italians prioritize fresh, seasonal food. You’re going to get fish that’s native to the area, and it will have been alive shortly before it was plated. You will notice the difference immediately. If there is a fishy smell or fishy taste, it is not fresh. This means you should not eat it. If the clams or mussels are still closed after their little friends have magically opened during cooking, you should toss them.
Spare the Salt
Whenever I’m watching a cooking show in the United States, I notice chefs are heavy handed with the salt. That’s not the case in Italy. Many seafood dishes – especially if the fish is coming from the already salty ocean – require little to no salt. If you dare use salt, keep it to a pinch. Shellfish usually doesn’t require any.
No Cheese Please
This is the one that really trips up Americans. We are quick to put Parmigiano cheese (or whatever is passing for Parmigiano at the supermarket) on any pasta. Italians believe it is sacrilege to put cheese on a shellfish dish. In fact, when my cousin ordered linguine con vongole in Italy, the waiter famously refused to give him cheese to top it. Oh yeah, he told him, “No way, mister!” If you want to avoid getting your hand slapped, you won’t even ask for it. However, a few intrepid chefs in Ischia have recently added a few Parmigiano shavings to a dish of pasta with mussels and zucchini. It’s not bad. For the most part, though, the cheese on shellfish is still off limits. The belief is that it destroys or hides the taste of the fresh shellfish. When it’s straight from the ocean, you won’t need the cheese. Promise.
Never Mess with Shrimp
Americans are all about cleanliness. We buy already cleaned shrimp, usually frozen in a bag. We never see the shrimp with their heads still attached. Ewwww! Right? But Italians are distinctly different. They don’t mind the mess of cleaning the shrimp at the table while eating. Indeed, cooking the shrimp with skin on and head attached makes for a tastier dish, they say. You’ll see the eyes and everything. But after you cut off the head and remove the skin, you’ll take a bite. And you won’t be disappointed. Many Italians suck the juice out of the head, in fact. I’m not a big fan of that practice. I’m too American, I guess. Still, I never complain about fully clothed shrimp anymore. It’s too delicious to argue.
Only Lemon for the Fried Stuff
While Americans only seem to eat calamari fried, they are at least indulging in one of southern Italy’s finest ingredients. But they serve the things with red tomato sauce and lemon. Sometimes, there are other dips and doodads surrounding the calamari. Often, there are far too many ingredients in the batter, too. Italians usually just cover the calamari in flour and some light seasoning, such as parsley, before frying. An Italian restaurant in Italy is never going to serve you red tomato sauce on the side of your calamari. The waiter will just bring out lemon to squirt on them. Again, when you are eating fresher food, you don’t need all that other stuff to cover up the natural flavors. Besides, the lemons of southern Italy are usually also exceptional, so you won’t miss getting saucy.
Throughout season 2 of Gomorrah, fans have seen Gennaro’s efforts to become a mob boss. He was willing to work with his father, Don Pietro, at first. Surely, father and son would have sought to avenge Imma’s death at the hands of Ciro. Right? Well, not exactly. Don Pietro repeatedly rejected Gennaro. He blamed him for Ciro’s ability to form the Alliance. Worse, he gave him no credit for creating criminal connections with those in Honduras, who provide them with the drugs to sell. Granted, this is not the kind of stuff that would make a normal parent proud. But Don Pietro is a mob boss. Gennaro wrote him off after numerous attempts to win him over.
Ciro and Gennaro Are Linked for Life
During the season, we saw the rivalry between Ciro and Gennaro play out. They both had the chance to kill the other in season 2, and neither went through with it. Then, they realized that they could make more money and keep the police away without stepping on one another. It worked for a short time. When Don Pietro starts messing with the Alliance to try win back his old life, Ciro and Gennaro are drawn together. We saw them meeting every once in a while. Each time, Ciro tried to convince Gennaro to work against his father. Ciro told Gennaro the poison of this situation is eating you alive. Those words were more important than you might have realized. The season finale reunited them in an unexpected way.
Death Is Still All Around
The season finale opens with Lelluccio, Scianel’s son, opining on how Ciro is a traitor. All the while, he’s snorting cocaine. Next thing you know, he and his henchmen take bullets through the window. They were all dead in a flash. Ciro and his young daughter Maria Rita are still in their house. But they are mostly locked in.
He has security guards and three cars taking her to school every day. Don Pietro starts earning more money now that he’s getting more people to join his squad. And he has eliminated everyone else. But one problem remains – Ciro. He tells Malamore to destroy him. Meanwhile, Patrizia is always present.
Instead of killing Ciro, Don Pietro has Malamore kill Maria Rita. It’s dramatic. They shoot up the cars as she heads to school. You think she might get away with her driver. But Malamore rams into the car with his vehicle, hops out, kisses the crucifix around his neck, and shoots the little girl in the backseat. At least he looked pained when doing it. I have to admit, so far, that was the hardest scene to watch.
Ciro attends Maria Rita’s burial alone with his security guards. Then, he heads to the roof. The guards come in and see his apartment in complete disarray. They run to the roof and find Ciro at the edge. He tells them he is setting them all free. He directs them to split the money in the safe between themselves and to go away. He stays on the roof.
Even if these mob bosses have lots of people around them doing whatever they say, they end up alone. On the other hand, Gennaro has family. When we last saw him he was getting married to Azzurra. Many wondered why he and his bride never showed up to the reception. They were off having dinner. Meanwhile, her father got arrested at the party sans couple. Gennaro was testing his new wife. It reminded me of how his father explained the recognition that Imma would always be loyal to him.
Turns out Gennaro’s antics at the wedding had greater significance. In this episode he visits his father-in-law in jail. Dad says the newlyweds offended him by not showing up to the reception. Gennaro responds, “I don’t want to share Azzurra with anyone.” The father then implies Gennaro was the snitch. Back at home Azzurra comes to the same conclusion. Indeed, Gennaro tells her, “Your father was making me a minority partner and that made me mad. You and I have to be in charge of our own destiny.” She agrees and reminds him that she’s betraying her own blood for him.
After Don Pietro has Maria Rita killed, Don Pietro has fireworks go off. Literally. It was sick. Gennaro tells him that no one will let him get away with killing a child. He seems to be angry about it. His father says that Ciro killed “my Imma, who was my whole life.” Patrizia is standing there to hear it. Don Pietro shuns Gennaro again when he insists on getting paid for the drugs he’s delivering to his dad’s men. Don Pietro tells him, “You are the son of Pietro Savastano and nothing more.” Gennaro leaves. The chances of reconciliation seem slim.
Patrizia tells Don Pietro that Gennaro has grown into a man, and he should treat him that way. She also reminds him that she betrayed her siblings. She became his soldier. She was willing to die for him. And now she has even tried to be a good wife. But she wouldn’t compete with a ghost. Then, she storms off.
Later, you see Patrizia in a towel drying her hair. Don Pietro walks in. He tells her he is old, she is young. And that he is offering her a bad deal. But as long as he’s still walking, he says, it is because of her. Then, he hands her a ring to offer marriage. She kisses him. End scene.
Next, Don Pietro calls Gennaro and says he needs to talk to him in person where the white roses grow.
The Perfect Ending
Everything was leading up to these final moments of season 2. Don Pietro has Malamore and a driver bring him to Imma’s grave. There, he expresses his sorrow at her absence. He asks forgiveness of her for turning to Patrizia. He says he can’t stand to be alone anymore.
Meanwhile, Gennaro finds Ciro in the corner of the roof like a sick dog. Gennaro has a gun in his hand. You wonder if his father has convinced him to kill. Ciro says, “I wanted to turn the world upside down, but I failed.” Gennaro hands the gun to Ciro and says, “Now, you have one more thing to do.”
At the same time, Azzurra goes into labor. Gennaro is in the delivery room with his wife. Ciro shows up at Imma’s gravesite. Don Pietro says hello to him. Ciro, gun in hand, returns the greeting. Don Pietro says, “In the end, this is all there is.” Ciro agrees and shoots him in the head. Ciro walks away. Malamore and the other guy run to a dead Don Pietro. Gennaro’s son is born. The nurse asks what to call the baby. Gennaro answers, “Pietro. Pietro Savastano.”