Two years ago today my husband Rocco and I went on our European Holiday. It was simply the best time and looking over some of the files on my computer I found this small clip of the marching band at the Palace. I can still remember the day and the beautiful weather. We went on the tour of the Palace and the grounds, which were magnificent!
We plan to return next year and exploring the Cornwall region. I have traced my ancestors there and hope to see if there are any cousins I could contact. I've recently started emailing another "new relative" via ancestry.com and hope to meet her as well in London.
Below I added a clip of street dancing in Rome. We were at a great little restaurant and enjoyed watching these ladies dance. They were having such a good time and it added to the festive mood we were all sharing. We had been inside where they had a karaoke player and that was equally alot of fun. I just remember it was incredibly hot that evening and I thought it was so cute how the ladies were using their fans. The owner then joined in.....he was the gentleman in the suit with the glasses. Another memorable moment and this time a little sound to enjoy as well. I plan on improving my movie skills though before the next trip.
From street to street there were performers of all kinds. I see this in Manhattan but very rarely where I live in Florida. I truly enjoy the freedom of expression and the fun impromptu attitude ofthese happy people.
Before I met my husband Rocco, August 5th for me was usually just a hot Long Island summer day. Little did I know then that it would become a special day each year marked with a celebratory Mass in honor of "La Madonna della Neve" followed by a Parade around his Brooklyn neighborhood. The feast day was referred to as Our Lady of Snow. The Society located on Graham Ave in Greenpoint was founded in 1888 by immigrants from Sanza Italy to provide financial and psychological support to Italian immigrants in need.
The legend dates back to August 5th, 352. It was believed there was a nobleman and his childless wife that had been blessed with many of the world's goods. They chose the Mother of God as heir to their fortune and at the suggestion of Pope Liberius prayed that she would make known to them how to do this with some sign. On August 5th she appeared to both John and his wife and the Pope and asked that they build a church in her honor on the crown of Esquiline Hill. The sign that John and his wife had asked for, "Snow will cover the crest of the hill." Then during the night the snow fell and the rest is history... a church was built by John and his wife and named Basilica of Liberius but has since been known by Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore having been restored over the years. Back then it was also believed that the bells chimed louder and clearer than those of Paregine, in the town of Sanza in the southern Italian province of Salerno. The decision was Sanza be awarded the sacred statute of Our Lady of Snow.
My mother-in-law Rachel's family had immigrated from Sanza and thus came the tradition to be passed on. Although we no longer live up North and have lost many of those who we celebrated with us, my husband Rocco and I still mark this day with beautiful memories and renewed belief in miracles that can happen with the power of prayer.
Our celebrations started with the Mass at St Francis in Greenpoint and then we joined the parade where thay marched and pinned money on the Saint. It was so community minded with lots of pride and charity. Then people all around the neighborhood would visit and bring some food to share and certainly stories of the old days and yes later on the singing began. I have to share a really funny memory of many years ago....my husband and I used our car to pull the Statue in the parade and after the parade they parked the float in my Father-in-laws garage. The Statue had been dropped off at the Socity Hall on Graham avenue earlier. The day was exceptionally warm and the ice cold beer on tap sure quenched your thirst. Well anyway later on in the evening we noticed my brother-in-law Sonny was missing and we went looking for him. At first we could'nt find him but then someone checked the garage and to our surprise there was Sonny sitting on the float where the Statue had been, waving and singing! We still laugh and tease him to this day of that evening. He truly captured the moment forever in our minds of August 5th celebrations.
To all who are celebrating August 5th today for Our Lady of the Snow we wish you a beautiful Blessed day!
aMerry Little Christmas.. La Festa dell' Epifania.. and legendary Befana! I love celebrating traditions as usually it is followed with a good meal! With Christmas behind us and the New Year rung in we now have Little Christmas or the procession of The Three Kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus celebrated today. Many towns throughout Italy celebrate starting with the legend of Befana ( the Witch woman). On the eve of the Kings procession Jan 5th children hang their stockings to see what Befana will leave for them.
As the three Kings were on their journey, they stopped at a house along the way and met Befana. She was busy sweeping her house as they appeared and asked directions. They invited her along but she refused and went back to her work. Later on when she was done with her sweeping, she decided to gather up some toys she had and try and catch up to them. She took her broom and went looking for them, only to get lost herself! So as tradition has it, she still searches for them on the eve of Epifania, leaving toys and candies to good children or coal to naughty ones. After the children check their stockings there are many celebrations in the local Piazza's where families gather to serve traditional foods to visitors and guests watching the procession.
An update to my Britalia Way Christmas Pudding. It was delicious and everyone loved it. I took a panettone and cut in chunks and added a jar of Cross and Blackwell Mince Pie filling, chopped dates, apples, and walnuts. I made a custard with three eggs, half and half, milk, and cinnamon, then folded it into the panettone and baked. I served it Christmas Day as a contorno (side dish) to my Ham, String Beans and Salad. If I had served it as a Dessert, I would have added a dollop of clotted cream as I originally thought. The sweet taste to the savory ham was truly a Delight!
For dinner tonight I'm making a Pork tenderloin stuffed with Spinich, Pignoli Nuts and Raisins............. a meal fit for a King!!!
What is Paradise? Ask this question and everyone will have their own ideas but the smile on their face is the same. Pure Delight just thinking of their reply! I can say without a doubt our trip to England and Italy last September gave us a taste of Paradise in every town!
From the bustle of London to the magical streets of Venice, to the art of Florence, the vineyards of Tuscany, the history of Rome, and then the beautiful Sea from Naples down to Sorrento. A special place in my heart belongs to the beautiful City of Sorrento.
From our arrival by Water Taxi from Naples we could see it emerging on the side of the Mountain. The day was beautiful and after a train ride from Rome to Naples and a stop for Pasta and a quick Pastry we headed to the Pier and our Water Taxi to Sorrento! We were staying at Palazzo Montefusco and were told they would meet us at the Pier to help with the luggage. That in itself was wonderful as I've explained in earlier posts that we had way too much luggage for a European Holiday. Of course lots of room to bring back treasures but maneuvering was tricky, putting it mildly!!!
After a quick call to Palazzo Montefusco Angelo and Giovanni came to lead us to our beautiful lodging. From the minute they arrived with our initial exchange I could feel the warmth from their smiles and eagerness to help with anything we needed. As we walked through the winding streets my eyes and senses were on overload to the beautiful shops, fantastic aromas of food being prepared and the sound of Church bells in the distance. Oh yes this certainly felt like Paradise to me.
Upon arriving at Palazzo Montefusco we entered a Courtyard and up steps into our building. It was decorated with all white furniture with a Modern motif. They offered us drinks right away and then showed us our room which had a balcony with French Doors looking over Main Street. I could see up and down and loved the airy feeling and being a part of such a lovely view. The Bed was super comfrotable and the Bath ultra modern with a multi jet Shower. I felt as if I was staying at a spa. Later that afternnon we met Ivan the owner. He and his wife Fabiana have two children and renovated and run the Palazzo almost like a hobby. They truly enjoy their guests and make every attempt to make you feel as if this is your home away from home. I believe there are only six rooms at the Palazzo and they cater to your every need. When Ivan learned my Husband liked a cigar once in a while he gave Rocky several to enjoy. One of the other nights I wasnt feeling well and Angelo came to the Pharmacy and helped me get some medication. We then went to dinner and when we got back Giovanni had a tray with Chamomille Tea for me.
We were in Sorrento for four nights and decided to stay an extra night and although they were booked they helped get us a room at another Hotel! Ivan also told us to come back and enjoy Breakfast with them and think of it as our home. Carla ( who also worked at the front desk) arranged for a driver to take us to Amalfi, Positano and Ravello as well as Grotta dello Smeraldo. There we took a boat into the cave which was so beautiful. Driving up to the top of the mountain and Ravello was magnificent. Our driver was great and gave us plenty of time in each place to explore and shop and of course we had a beautiful lunch in a Restaurant overlooking the Sea!
The day we were leaving Ivans wife Fabiana came to say goodbye as well. They made our stay so memorable! Yes Sorrento is a piece of Paradise we will visit again and of course stay with our "adopted Family"!
Like a great Movie Debut, I decided the first Conversation of the year shall be named "The Orsini Connection". Back in September of last year our first stop on our trip to Europe was London. We had decided to stay in a small lovely Hotel, The Rembrandt by the Victoria and Albert Museum and walking distance to Harrods! Yes, Yes, Yes, strolling in the area was divine and made us feel oh so Royal! From fancy Boutiques, to Pubs, Restaurants and yes one special store that sold Kitchen Stoves that cost as much as a Mercedes Benz in the States. Of course I was excited over the thought of how much fun I would have creating Recipes, while realizing usually the people who purchase them have professional Chefs. Oh well, remember the idea in your mind can be dreams of enjoyment and certainly fascinating Conversations. LOL!
After checking into our Hotel we set out on foot to check out places to have Dinner over the next few days. Virtually a few steps from the Hotel we came upon Orsini. A small Italian Restaurant with a rustic feel like you would see in a Trattoria in Italy. We decided to take a look for a possible choice for Dinner the next day. Having a cup of Espresso and a sweet would give us time to look over the menu as well. As we approached the door we saw a couple sitting with a man who was busily telling a story with such enthusiasm. Being a people person I could see the enjoyment he was having sharing this story. I was watching and really wanted to just take a seat and listen as well. I was surprised as he caught my eye and immediately excused himself from the table and asked if he could help us. I explained we had just arrived and asked if we could order an espresso and sweet. Absolutely, come on in he gestured as he introduced himself as Leonardo. He told us of the sweets he had and we decided on the Cannoli with our Cafe Macchiato.
A few minutes later, he was back with the coffee's and sweets and then sat down with us. He inquired where we had traveled from and what we thought of London so far. I told him of our backgrounds and my Husband being Italian and thus a connection began. He was excited to hear of our upcoming trip to Italy. He had explained he had opened the Restaurant with his wife (from Naples) and his in-laws. He was actually an Engineer by trade and had worked in Abu dhabi. The Family had decided on moving to England and begin a Family business one that he, his wife and son could enjoy and have his in-laws to be part of it as well. He suggested that we come back the next day so he could prepare a special dinner that would excite our tastes for our trip to Italy.
We were so happy as we left knowing we would be enjoying a great meal and sharing good conversation with a fascinating man. The next day was an enjoyable sight seeing day which included a tour of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Seeing the London Needle and of course shopping! We were so happy to actually see Buckingham Palace as the Queen was away. I guess she didn't get the memo I would be in Town. LOL! The Palace is truly a majestic place and the outdoor grounds are magnificent.
As we approached the Restaurant that evening we were so excited for our Culinary experience to begin. Leonardo was there to meet us and brought us up to the front of the restaurant so he could keep an eye on us, as we enjoyed each course. He started us out with a delicious Antipasto atop a Carving Board with Prosciutto, Salami, Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Bruschetta and Pecorino Romano Cheese with Honey to dip the cheese in. They were served individually as seen in the opening picture.
We then moved on to an Eggplant Tart which was like our eggplant parmigiana but in stacks as opposed to a tray where they cut in portions. This presentation looked great. The skin was left on the eggplant and had the consistency of a crispy baked potato and it was delicious!
Next was a Trio of Pasta. On the left was Ravioli with A Bolognese Sauce with Pasta Neapolitan in the middle and Rissotto Porcini Mushrooms with shaved Parm on the right. On a separate dish was Lasagna with homemade Pasta sheets and Sauce. At this point after tasting the homemade bread and several glasses of delicious wine we were content and wanted to leave room for Dessert. Leonardo had been coming over and was ready to go on to a meat course and we had to tell him we could sample that on another visit. Throughout the meal he had visited and we shared stories of our Families and traditions One favorite was that of my Mother-in Law hanging Fresh Sausage on a Wire Hanger in the Kitchen Window to dry out for Soppressata. Whether you live in Italy, London or Brooklyn (where my Husband grew up) Italian Families like Leonardo's carry on the tradition of making food and conversation the focal part of family life.
We looked forward to our sweets for Dessert and certainly were not disappointed. Once again tastefully presented came a board with Cheesecake, Ciambellone (a cake made by his Mother in Law) Gelato and cookies and of course Cafe Macchiato.
I made a Toast to Leonardo to a new Friendship and that "the meal was only exceeded by the charm of our Host". To describe Leonardo's personality, would be to equate his soul is Food. The evening for us will always be remembered and hopefully we will return and make this Special Connection again.
Grazie Leonardo per una splendida serata!
Our trip to England and Italy were filled with special moments shared with special people who each have a place in my heart. I am always in awe seeing the beautiful sights, but enjoy the feeling when you share your adventure and connect it to a person who made it feel real. I’m never one to pick the best but rather enjoy each chance meeting and reflect on its own unique experience. I have written in earlier posts of how I love Lace and link it to my past from beautiful pieces made by my Grandmother Charlotte. It is so amazing that I would travel to Venice and stay in Hotel Fontana and meet Nonna Lena and feel a connection to memories past. All though she doesn’t speak English and my Italian is limited, we connected heart to heart. Her face is true beauty holding love, appreciation and kindness with every smile.
Nonna Lena is 92 and still comes to Hotel Fontana each day to sit and greet the Guests and make everyone feel like Family. Her Grandson Diego is now in charge of the Family Hotel that was established in 1967. Many years ago it had been a home to a group of German Nuns. While sitting in the lovely reception /bar area I could hear the Church bells from the Duomo in the Square and I was immediately taken back in thoughts of years past. I know I have read too many romance novels and go off on tangents of oohs and aahs but this truly was a magical feeling. While lost in thought a small woman appeared from the back and presented me with a beautiful smile and greeting. Diego introduced Nonna Lena to me and I knew right away I wanted to spend time with her. She held so much warmth in eyes and this is truly the History of Venice to me. A lovely family keeping alive the tradition of a business being created by a wonderful couple and now her Grandson and his cousin are building it for hopefully the next generation. With pride she showed me the painting of she and her Husband Nino that hang on the wall of the reception area. With Diego translateing she told the story of how she and her Husband had owned a Restaurant Da Nino adjacent to the Hotel from 1947 to 1967 when they opened Hotel Fontana. They enjoyed many years working side by side building a wonderful reputation in the Hotel business.
Our room like I’m sure of the others was filled with lovely antiques and a very comfortable bed. They have a lovely Breakfast room and we enjoyed the delicious rolls and buns each morning. They also have traditional hard boiled eggs, yogurt and salami and cheese as well. Breakfast is complete with either a Cappuccino or Café Maciado .
One afternoon Nonna Lena and I were sitting together and she brought out a big book and placed it on the table between us. As she opened it, I could see it contained doilies she had made. I enjoyed looking at the beautiful pieces she had created and she could see how much I liked them and then picked out three pieces and gave them too me. My eyes filled with tears as I felt so special to be given these lovely pieces that of course I will treasure and hand down in my family with this lovely memory as well.
Venezia is truly an amazing place to visit with its art, culture and delicious food !From our arrival at the Venice Airport to the Water Taxi to the Hotel and our visits to the Doge Palace, St. Marks Square and the Duomo, we will forever remember this exciting City. I feel like I experienced the best of both Worlds both seeing the beautiful sights, tasting the fine food and leaving with the special Friendship of Nonna Lena that will be laced into my memories.
Back in May of this year my girlfriend Ann called me and told me of her upcoming vacation plans. She was going to spend the month of July touring Italy with her son Anthony. I enjoyed hearing of her plans and thought I too would love to see Italy and enjoy a true food fest eating my way from North to South and of course in between bites seeing all the sights that Italy offers. For many years we discussed a trip and I always said Id like to travel during the Harvest. So in July we made the decision we weren’t going to miss another September Harvest and I soon began planning our exciting journey. We had decided that we would tour on our own as I’m never ready when the tour starts and never ready to leave when they are either. I get caught up in the moment and have to share another story with a local from the town we’re visiting or have another glass of wine or just can’t seem to hit all the shops and touch all the goodies. You get the picture by now that I can be a problem with time RESTRAINT LOL! It was a wonderful trip and I’m so excited to share so many memorable stories of all the magnificent places we visited and all the delicious food we tasted but most of all share the wonderful stories of the beautiful people we met. I always say I can ooh and ahh over scenery and monuments, but they don’t speak to me the language and the love like the local people themselves do.
From London to Venice to Florence to Tuscany to Rome to Naples to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast back to the London Countryside we journeyed for 22 fabulous days. For the exception of three hours of rain in Venice we only saw the Sun and the beautiful Moon each evening. To be greeted by each City with its breath taking scenery, and richness in culture, followed with the best food ever plays out an experience of a lifetime! Of course I will also start by saying with all this joyous bliss there was only one struggle we had to endure……LUGGAGE!!!! With all the warnings I did over pack and of course you know me and all my grand ways(remember I act like British Royalty if not the Queen herself LOL) only to get a reality check that I had to drag my 65lbs of bags around with me!) My Husband and I each had a big piece of luggage and one carry on plus my pocketbook. This journey was actually a European version of the Survivor according to my Husband Rocco! I will break down the itinerary and then over the course of the next few weeks share the details of this great get a way! We began with a British Airways flight from Orlando Florida to London Gatwick Airport. We then spent the next 3 1/2 days in London and then flew to Venice. We enjoyed 2 1/2 glorious days in this magical city and then took the Frecciargento High Speed rail to Florence where we rented an apartment for four nights and 5 days with day trips to Bologna, Modena and the Ferrari Museum in Maranello! So exciting! Next we rented a Fiat to drive the Mountains of Tuscany and our first stop was Montalcino and Castello Romitorio Winery. We had a private tour of the winery and Danielo had a lovely lunch (actually a Feast) served and then we walked the grounds and tasted the grapes off the vine. I will detail in a later post. From Montalcino we went to Montisi where we were staying in a Bed and Breakfast and this is where I realized that my eyes saw sights that changed my heart and mind forever.
From being torn away from a dream we next drove down the mountains toward Rome. One big point Id like to make before I go off on my tangents of Romance is Never Drive In Rome!!!!!Its not the driving actually, the fact there is no place to pull over to stop. We got to our Bed and Breakfast by Via Veneto but had to pass the street at least 5 times and then my Husband literally pulled on the sidewalk to drop the luggage and then return the car. We were so lucky that the Avis rent a car was only two blocks away. For 2 1/2 days in Rome we did like the Movie Eat, Pray and Love….. and danced as well at Cafe Veneto. The Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peters were beautiful and the Coliseum as majestic as a ruin can be. Of course secretly I wish they could have vendors at each level reenacting an outdoor festival rather than think about all of what really went on there! By this point on our vacation my brain was on overload on facts and knowledge. You know you can’t remember all the facts, yet we don’t want to miss a word. I’m always amused when we walk away of how much I don’t know yet seem to enjoy my little world just fine :)))
From Rome we took the high speed Italian train to Naples.We dragged our luggage across from the station and went to a local little restaurant so I could sample the pasta and tomatoes from this region. It was outstanding, actually I think the best in all of Italy. They say the ash from Mount Vesuvius is what makes the tomatoes the best and I totally agree! After our lunch break there was no Siesta for us as we had to catch the Ferry to Sorrento. Once again boarding a Ferry with luggage gives you a workout of sorts. A beautiful trip seeing the coastline and a breeze blowing thru our hair was refreshing. We were in Love again and the thought of luggage didn’t blur the beauty of the Coast with its villages steeped in the Mountains. Reality was forty minutes away when we arrived in Sorrento!
Upon arriving we called Palazzo Montefusco and Angelo and Giovanni came to meet us and took over the luggage. Needless to say we were Happy! We walked thru narrow winding streets with vendors of Fruit, Lace, Ceramics, Paintings, Leather and so many beautiful Restaurants like in a Movie. I was in love at first sight and happy to know we were here several days! We went to Capri the next day by Ferry and walked the streets and took the trolley up the hill. We had attempted to walk the steps to Ana Capri but it was really warm that day and I realized I would need oxygen any minute. :))) The following day we hired a Driver who picked us up and took us on an all day excursion to the Amalfi Coast stopping at Positano, Amalfi, Rovello and Grotto dello Smeraldo. We were enchanted with each stop and vowed to return to this beautiful region of Italy. At this point it was time to say Arrevederci to Italy and return to the UK. We had a driver take us to Rome from Sorrento as yes we didn’t want to handle the Luggage! It really was relaxing and we enjoyed our Driver who helped with my Italian lessons and just seeing the scenery. We said our goodbyes and boarded our flight to London Heathrow and off we went.
We were excited to explore the countryside and take a leisurely ride to our Bed and Breakfast. We had to rent a car big enough to carry the luggage which by now was a standing joke between us. Driving was a little tricky as well as scary as your on the wrong side of the street with a six speed manual transmission and everybody but you knows where their going! At one point my Husband was grabbing my Soda Bottle sitting in the slot next to the shifter and trying to switch gears saying there’s a problem and then realized and went hysterical laughing. It was truly one of the funniest moments of our Journey.
We enjoyed the Countryside for 3 1/2 days and then we headed back to Orlando and reality. Our trip was truly a dream come true with so many experiences I will share and hope you enjoy. In the meantime here are a few pictures of the wonderful people we met. Ciao and Grazie to all our Friends! We will be back……………………………………….and Yes with Less Luggage.
Years ago when I was first married I enjoyed our weekend trips into Brooklyn and having Sunday dinner with the family. I was born and raised on Long Island where you drove to stores and really enjoyed the contrast of the tight knit community’s of the City. I loved all the little Grocery stores, Butchers and Bakeries and watching the interaction between the owners and their customers was really nice! Most of the owners knew their customers by first names as you had to walk home with your grocery’s, so you frequented the local stores for convenience. One such place was Georges Meat Market in my Husbands neighborhood. It was a Butcher shop that also carried some Italian grocery’s although not too many, as there was Tonys Grocery store across the street and both had their own territory so to speak! One day my mother in law asked me to go get some Black Coffee. She always would say after a big Sunday afternoon meal shall I make Demitasse? She always referred to black coffee or espresso as Demitasse. Another word lost in the shuffle remember when Pasta was referred to as macaroni! Well anyway she asked me to tell them to give me my darling daughters coffee as she thought I wouldn’t remember the brand Medaglia d’Oro Coffee. She was so cute. I walked over and asked for it like she said and they all burst out laughing. I actually thought it was funny too but decided it was better to remember the name for the next time. Several weeks later I went over to the market for a few items for Mama and while on line (it was really busy) I decided to have some fun with the owners son Frankie. I leaned over the counter and in front of a big line yelled out”‘hey Frankie did you say the Italian bread was 4 for a Dollar?” I had seen the sign for 2 for a Dollar but wanted to have some fun teasing him. Well at that minute all the people dove off line to get the Bread. It was so funny to see the look on his face from smiling to shock (OK you know what I mean) and then back to laughing out loud and he said OK we’re even now for all of us laughing at you for the coffee! It was really a great moment that I will always remember that made me feel connected to the store and with Frankie and now considered a regular. Oh and by the way I did offer to pay for the bread that “I” had put on sale, but his reply was absolutely not and I could still hear him laughing as I walked out the Door. After that day whenever I walked into the Shop he would look at me and give me a wink and then wave his finger and said Be Good today! Although George’s shop closed and has since reopened with new owners, on a recent visit as we passed I think I could still hear the laughter coming from behind the counter! Such Happy Memories!
Welcome to Britalia Way! Thanks for stopping by. Please join me as I share with you a series about food, people and experiences that are special to me. English and Italian traditions are so enticing and were the inspiration for creating Britalia Way!
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