T-Shirt Translation – Every mother makes beautiful children but mine really exaggerated. Even though Baby Boy is wiping tears because he didn’t want to be photographed, the saying on the T-shirt, which was a gift but is available at the greatest souvenir shop in all of Ischia, Souvenirs di Ferrandino Michele, couldn’t be truer, in this mamma’s opinion. My son’s a handsome little guy and definitely represents my best work. Of course, his father contributed, but I don’t mind getting all the credit. Thank you, T-shirt. It’s clever. It’s in Italian. It’s my favorite souvenir in the history of the world. Good news adults, you too can get one in your size (in English or Italian). I’m sure the shirt rings true for you – and your mamma – too, no?
Back in the summer I reported how all the Italians were walking around Ischia claiming the biggest, reddest, juiciest tomatoes. Well, nowadays, they’re claiming the biggest and best mushrooms. Since you can’t simply grow mushrooms in your backyard, there’s a frenzy in all the wooded areas around the island. In the wee hours of the morning, people go on secret recon missions seeking out mushrooms that might have sprouted overnight.
People have “their spots,” where they go to find the fungi every year, and they don’t want to reveal these places to anyone. If they agree to let a relative tag along, they bring them to other places that are poor in mushroom stock to throw people off their scent. Even husbands and wives don’t know of their better half’s mushroom places. Nephews betray their uncles to get to the mushrooms in the family spot first. In fact, it’s completely awkward if you run into a friend or family member while making a run to find mushrooms. You don’t want to be rude and ignore anyone, but you don’t want to share your finds either.
People continue to seek well into the afternoon in the hopes that one of the early birds missed a mushroom here or there. Some of those early birds sell their mushrooms for a premium on the street (and it’s perfectly legal with these kinds of mushrooms). Then, once you have your stash, you share photos and stories flaunting your flair for finding fungi. You also throw these skills in the face of the loved ones you lied to (and perhaps knocked out of the way as you leaped toward a mushroom under that tree on the mountain) by sharing the images of whatever meal you cook using the mushrooms (think spaghetti with olive oil, mushrooms, and pepperoncini or atop a wood-fired pizza). Once again, I’m not among the mushroom mongers hiking the hills of Ischia seeking out the good stuff. But I have been happily eating and judging whose mushrooms are best. Right now, it’s a tie. I guess we’re going to have to have a bunch of tie breakers. Oh well, more mushrooms for me.
Today, I’m serving a delicious entry in the Our Paesani column on ItaliansRus. I wrote all about my favorite places to eat in Ischia, Italy, which is a foodie’s paradise. Of course, I also describe in great detail some of my favorite dishes at each place. Consider this fair warning – you will get hungry when you read this. You may also have pregnant-lady-like cravings for fresh seafood, cured Italian meats, and authentic pizza (see above) sprinkled with romance in an unmatched island setting. Just sayin’. Buon appetito!
I’ve been promising to share some photos and information about hosting a pizza-themed birthday party for my son’s second birthday, which we celebrated in Ischia, an island that is a province of Naples, Italy, the birthplace of pizza. Today, I revealed the whole story of how I pulled this off – from making that chef’s hat I’m wearing in the photo above to the fruit pizzas for dessert – in an entry for ItaliansRus. And I also posted the pics of the affair (including images of all the details) on this here site. See the “Pizza-Themed Birthday Party” photo album. All I can say is that I’m sad the party is over because it was so much fun for me to plan and execute. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top this event. My apologies to the Italian-American family members, who weren’t able to enjoy it with us. I promise to try and come up with something to celebrate when we return to the States. With Italians, it’s never hard to find an excuse for a party. Am I right or am I right?
Today is the feast of Saint Francis (San Francesco in Italy). Those of us named Francesco and Francesca celebrate our name day (onomastico in Italian) today. This is a religious celebration, and you might have heard about the Pope (who took Francis/Francesco as his Pope name) marking the occasion with a trip to his namesake’s birthplace, Assisi. Back on the home front, we have secular celebrations akin to birthday parties. As the one celebrating, my job is to provide friends and family with sweets. Many people bring their colleagues pastries on the morning of their name day. I baked peanut butter cookies for my in-laws because my niece shares my name and those are her favorite. We ate pizzette (tiny pizzas) and French fries. Of course, that was dinner and at lunch we had a pasta dish with ham and a creamy sauce, followed by mozzarella in carrozza (Italian grilled cheese) and eggplant parmigiana. Obviously, there was no thought to cholesterol; it was a party, after all. Like everything else in Italy, name days are all about the food. Those closest to you sometimes give you small gifts. And my husband really surprised me this morning. He left a beautifully wrapped present in the bathroom for me to find when I awoke (and he was already off to work). The contents of said gift are in the photo above. What meant the most was the saying on the placeholder in the frame. Eternamente insieme! Together Forever! I hope so.
On a recent trip to the town of Ischia Ponte, I noticed this lovely tree with stumps surrounding its base. It’s a simple idea – placing stumps that would have been burned or tossed around a tree to serve as decoration in a tourist mecca. It probably protects the tree at its roots, too, with all the foot traffic in the area. But it definitely isn’t an obvious idea. I wouldn’t have come up with it. It looks neat and clean, yet interesting with lots of texture. Just look at that bark and the green leaves of the tree flowing upward toward the sky! Well, it caught my eye, and I wanted to share it. If Baby Boy had been in a better mood (and if we had more time), I would have used this as background for a photo of him. Even all by itself, the tree is still pretty wonderful. It reminds me of two things. First, Ischia is known as L’Isola Verde (the Green Island) with good reason. Second, its people are pretty darn creative, especially with their beloved greenery. My father, an island native, is an artist with plants and flowers – and so are many of his fellow Ischitani. This is where the gene comes from. Anyone who visits the island will take note of it, even in the most unexpected places.
I’ve learned to also keep my digital camera charged and with me whenever I venture out into Ischia, Italy. I just never know when I’m going to stumble upon the perfect photo. I just loved this colorful boat, which caught my eye while I was hanging out on the beach and building sand castles (read: getting sand thrown in my eyes, hair, face, and even mouth) with Baby Boy, who likes to throw the soft stuff around. Despite the tearing, I saw this charming boat, probably giving someone a tour of the island, and couldn’t resist snapping a photo. I have a load of these kinds of shots on iPhoto now. And I hope the collection keeps growing. My new rule is going to be to always have a camera with me wherever I am (even after I leave Ischia). This comes in handy when I want to capture precious moments with Baby Boy, too. Who knows? You might be my next subject. Watch out!
Baby Boy is crying about the bigger kids taking over the attractions at the park in Ischia and shoving him out in the photo above. But Italians are apparently just as blue nowadays, at least according to the United Nation’s most recent World Happiness Report. The Boot had a poor showing, which is mostly attributed to the economic crisis gripping Europe. Recently, I offered a firsthand look at the crisis, based on the last five months I’ve spent living in Ischia, which attempts to illustrate the sadness that the UN is reporting. You can read my story, “Italy is Blue,” on the ItaliansRus Web site. Give it a chance. There’s a surprise ending that offers a little hope to the Motherland. Oh and big kids, next time I won’t hold back Baby Boy. Let’s just say he won’t be the one crying. Capeesh?
What did I tell you? What did I tell you? In a recent blog I mentioned that maybe Ischia would have a couple more summer-like days in the fall and that they would attract people to the ocean. Well, on Saturday temperatures reached about 80 degrees, and people raced to the rocks to get prime real estate in the sun. As Baby Boy ran freely on the bridge that leads to Castello Aragonese, we took in the view of the sunbathers making the most of these rarer and rarer hot days. In fact, on this lovely Monday morning, Baby Boy was wearing jeans and a jacket to play ball in the garden at home. Right now, I’m wearing sweat pants. Still, how cool is it that we could actually enjoy an 80-degree day toward the end of September at the beach?
Summer left Ischia without even saying good-bye. The tourists cleared out of here in early September. And we went to the beach during the first week of the month, and it was still hot and sticky, perfect for jumping into the ocean for a dip. The next day, I turned around and the cold breeze of autumn had flown through our kitchen. I made a hot cup of apple cinnamon tea (from the States, of course) and threw on a long-sleeve T-shirt, and I haven’t looked back. Baby Boy is sporting jeans and even a cotton jacket over his polo shirts.
Indeed, this was a strange summer on Ischia. I’ve been here before during this time period, and usually we are at the beach regularly from early May to early October. All the Americans who were at our wedding here nearly five years ago can attest to this because we took a swim the day after the nuptials on Oct. 3. The weather is hot, so we can really squeeze all we can out of summer. This year, it was cold until mid June and it’s cold again in mid September. No matter, there are some fun things to look forward to in fall (and which you can expect to read about on this site soon). Baby Boy’s pizza-themed birthday party, Halloween, and Thanksgiving celebrations (yes, I’m forcing these American holidays onto the Italians here), and the vendemmia (grape harvest for wine making) and mushroom picking (both Ischitani traditions). Maybe a hot day or two will visit us in the next month and we can make it back to the beach (and actually into the water). Or maybe we’ll just be hanging out on the sand until winter.