My husband Antonio and I had two weddings, so we had two honeymoons — the first was a quick weekend trip to Florida’s Walt Disney World and the second was a week-long getaway to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. I could really use a vacation right about now, and I was feeling nostalgic for Mexico this morning. So, I decided to make happy honeymoons the subject of my latest About.com Nelywed’s blog. Visit the blog, see another photo from our trip in February 2009, and leave a comment on the About blog. I can’t wait to see what you have to say.
From the moment I arrived in Ischia five months ago, my nieces Francesca and Giulia Buono and Laura Porraro have been keeping a calendar. During the week, I work — even if I’m home with them — I’m working. They know that they’re not supposed to come visit me while I’m working unless one of the adults sends them with a message. Sometimes, they come anyway. As a result, I have developed ways to keep working and keep them busy. While I’m working, they are allowed to pull out their box, which thanks to my mom, is filled with goodies for making pictures and homemade cards or they can read.
On the weekends, however, they know that I don’t have to work and they can come to my room whenever they’d like. Usually, I try to come up with special things to do on the weekends. Recently, we made Halloween decorations for my room. Another time, they made videos of themselves singing. Once, we made muffins. It was really the most fun we’ve ever had — until they started fighting and their moms had to break it up. Before the war broke out, we managed to make one batch of chocolate chip muffins and another of banana muffins. Delicious and delightful fun!
When I arrived in Ischia back in May, I was a bit homesick. To make myself feel better, I played tourist often. One of my first stops was Ischia Ponte, the oldest part of the island and home to Castello Aragonese. With less than two weeks to go before I return to the United States, I wanted to reminisce about the time I spent in Ischia Ponte at the start of my journey into married life in Ischia. You can take a tour of the town with me at the “Tour Ischia Ponte” photo album.
On one of my trips to Ischia Ponte (which is only about 15 minutes away by foot from where I live), I was joined by my American friends Lisa and Adam, who were on a honeymoon cruise that stopped in Ischia for a few hours. It was delightful bringing my American pals around the island home of my ancestors and husband. Back then, I wrote about Ischia as a honeymoon destination for About.com — and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Ahh, it’s nice to reminisce.
Wherever you go in Italy, especially in the southern part of the country, you’ll find that Italians have opinions on just about everything. And they’re almost never afraid to share those opinions. I bet you have a little Italian in you, too. That’s why I’d like to invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and opinions on the pages of the Newlyweds site that I maintain for About.com. Below are just a few places, where you can pipe up about a topic related to married life (and you don’t have to be married to participate).
Just click on the underlined words below and follow the instructions on the new page.
Birthday Ideas – Offer suggestions on how to the birthday of your husband, wife, or significant other special.
Halloween Costumes for Couples – Add to the list of ideas on Halloween costumes for couples. The first person to make a suggestion can use the horse’s ass and head idea. I’ll approve it – but I get to be the head when we put on the costume. Ha!
Should Women Change Their Name When They Get Married? – I posted this debate just yesterday, and I already have six comments. It’s an interesting issue with more facets to it than you’d imagine.
Should People Wait for Marriage to Have Sex? – Ever since I wrote a blog about first-time sex on your wedding night, hundreds of people have been weighing in with comments about having sex for the first time. That leads me to believe that this question will get a lot of people talking. Don’t be left out of the conversation. Pipe up. All opinions are welcome.
I won’t even pretend to be an objective critic or journalist today. Antonio and I have been going to Focolare, a family-run restaurant in Ischia, since we started dating about five years ago. We have always loved it and ever since Agostino D’Ambra, one of the owners and a chef at the restaurant visited us in the United States, we’ve grown to love the family who runs the place even more. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is distinctly Ischitano.
To get to Focolare, you must drive on narrow, curvy roads in the dark hills of Ischia, but it’s worth it. Surprisingly, a bus does make it up there, so you don’t have to have a car to get there. Once you arrive, you get to feast on traditional dishes with a twist — always with a twist. (To view some of the dishes we recently ate there, visit the “Dinner at Focolare” photo album.) For those guests, who know the family, the cantina (wine cellar) in the back is the perfect way to begin the food experience that is Focolare. There, much like Ischitani would offer to friends and family at home, the owners serve wine, homemade prosciutto, and bread sticks to the guests they know. We recently headed to the cantina with Americans Pasquale, who is originally from Naples but now works as a chef in the States and recently appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped, and his wife Jaime, an American who is a Rockette in New York. Even if the family doesn’t know you, in the main dining hall, they will treat you like family — and serve you an unforgettable meal. Buon appetito!
As we transition from summer to fall, the weather has gotten a bit chillier in Ischia. In fact, today, we are experiencing thunder storms again. But the colder temperatures do not prevent my husband from taking advantage of Ischia’s water features. While the beach with its breeze and colder ocean is not as pleasurable as it was a couple of weeks ago, the thermal pools with their naturally hot temperatures are still calling his name. Most of the thermal pool parks and spas on Ischia are open until late October — and fall is a lovely time to go to one because the August crowds have cleared out and even the Ischitani themselves are tending to their children who are back at school.
A little more than a week ago, Antonio took me to Castiglione. Of the three major thermal pool parks and spas (the other two being Negombo and Poseidon), Castiglione is the most family friendly and affordable. For less than 30 euro, you can do everything from swim laps in an Olympic-sized pool, take dips in the thermal pools, and sit in the sauna. A cafeteria-like restaurant that serves healthy options, including eggplant, swordfish, salmon, and tomato salad costs extra but remains affordable. We paid about 30 euro total for complete meals for the both of us.
Castiglione is as well known for this thermal pool park and spa as it is for the chestnut trees like the one in the photo above. I didn’t even know these green pom poms were chestnuts. Antonio told me that under that green porcupine lives a delicious chestnut. My father would have been delighted, and Antonio made me photograph the tree for him. (You can view more photos of our day at Castiglione at “Castiglione Thermal Pools” photo album.)
Thank God Sunday comes only once a week. Getting through Sunday lunch in Italy (or with Italian Americans in New Jersey for that matter) requires stamina and physical strength. Expect to eat your weight in pasta and pastries — and then work it off by washing pots sticky with red sauce and a million and one dishes and glasses. You can’t use paper or plastic on Sunday, after all.
Last Sunday, I had lunch at the home of my cousins Gigino and Flavia and their children Fausto and Angela. We laughed, we ate, we ate some more, we laughed some more. Passing the day with them is a pleasure with or without food — but there’s always food. In honor of my attendance at Sunday lunch, Flavia made homemade gnocchi, with flour but no potatoes. The gnocchi were light and delicious and smothered in a red sauce with meat, which we ate as our second dish. We also feasted on salad, eggplant rolled and stuffed with chopped meat, and freshly grilled pork. Just when we thought our stomachs would explode if we took another bite, we delighted in Italian pastries — everything from cream puffs to lobster tails (the kind with cream in a flaky pastry shaped like a lobster and not the fish). And they didn’t even let me help wash the dishes. To view pictures of the fun we had on Sunday, visit the photo album “Sunday Lunch in Italy“.
Anyone who has ever lived in Italy knows that Italians, especially women, have an obsession with ironing. An iron like the one above, which my husband and I received as a wedding gift last year, is a prized posession of many an Italian woman. I personally think it looks like something that the aliens who dropped in from Mars might leave on your doorstep. And I have never used it. As I understand it, you fill that bottom part with water, so you can iron everything from sheets to button-down shirts without having to continually add water as you would with traditional irons. Americans would never purchase such an iron because none of us do enough ironing to justify that much water in the tank. Perhaps, in the States, we could use this iron to boil water for tea. In any event, you can read about how the Italians judge me for my anti-ironing ways at the About.com Newlyweds site in a blog I recently wrote. Do me a favor: take a stand and don’t iron anything today.
Italians don’t care much about balloons and party horns. But every birthday must include a delicious meal. The person who is celebrating his birthday is expected to either invite (and pay) for his friends and family at a restaurant or invite them to his home and cook them a meal. You are also expected to offer cake or pastries to your colleagues at work on both your name day and birthday. Crazy, right? I must admit that I prefer the American way, where friends and family and colleagues offer you treats on your birthday as opposed to the other way around.
In any event, we recently celebrated my cousin Fausto’s 27th birthday at the home of our friends Antonio (yes, it’s quite the popular name in Italy) and Imma in Barano, Ischia. Fausto is like a mayor. He’s friends with the world, so there were plenty of us gathered around a long table in Antonio and Imma’s house. As head chef for the evening, Fausto led his friends, who participated in the cooking, in creating a delicious, gourmet meal that featured astice, which is similar to lobster, and balsamic vinegar soaked semi-raw fish that sounds strange but melts in your mouth. (See “Fausto’s 27th Birthday” photo album for pictures of some of the food and Fausto and friends.) The party was on Sunday, and I’m still delirious from the stuffed-to-the-brim gorging in which we partook. Thank God I don’t drink and therefore skipped the Veuve Clicquot and wine being passed around, or I’d be in sorrier shape. Still, it was worth it.
A few weeks ago, my cousin Gigino and his wife Flavia graciously invited me for a day at Nitrodi, a spot in Ischia where there are fountains of naturally warm water that revitalizes the skin and body. (See “Nitrodi Healing Showers” photo album for a picture tour.) I had been to Nitrodi before, but it was always just a single shower and not much else. Now, the community of Barano in Ischia has come together to improve the area for tourists and natives alike. There are additional showers that overlook Maronti, the largest and most popular beach in Ischia, and Sant’ Angelo, an ancient fishing village that now caters to tourists. Stairs and wooden railings that lead guests up to the showers and strategically placed lounge chairs in the hillside are simple yet pretty. And the peaceful atmosphere and lush vegetation make you feel as though you’re at an outdoor spa. If you pack a picnic like my cousins did, you can make a whole day of your stay at Nitrodi. If I could only use one word to describe Nitrodi now, it would be perfect.