Our New View – Annapolis

Leave a comment Standard

It has been a busy week. Frank and I flew from Sicily back to Paris, where we stayed over in the Sheraton Charles de Gaulle airport hotel so we could take our COVID test to get back to the US. (This hotel is a nice oasis in the middle of CDG, located in Terminal 2 where most international flights are, if you ever need an airport hotel in Paris.)

You have to take a test within one day of returning to the US. Since we were flying the day before, we had to take our test the day of our flight home, which was a little nerve-wracking. We scheduled a test at the clinic in the airport – which is one floor below the Sheraton – very convenient. We got the earliest appointment time and lined up with the other Americans needing to test. They swabbed us and made us all sit in a room for 30 minutes while we waited for results. Then they came out and announced results in batches – you either got a piece of paper that listed negative or you were whisked off somewhere else (we don’t know where!).

Thankfully, we were negative, so our flight was a “go.” We ran back upstairs to the Sheraton, grabbed our bags, and headed to check in for our flight.

So we are back home after a wonderful trip.  We faced uncertainty with COVID and were very careful all along the way – wearing our masks, foregoing museums or crowded spaces (we will have to go back for these), showing our CDC card everywhere if we wanted to eat indoors, and learning to be adaptable.

We also felt much closer to the war in Ukraine. We encountered refugees – the airports all had signs everywhere showing them where to go – but we also saw refugees sitting at the next table at dinner. They looked just like us. The war is not just on TV in Europe; it is on their doorstep. We got to know a waitress at our favorite local resaurant in Venice who helped bring her nephew from Kiev while we were there – we got the day-by-day update. Her son is in Moldova and she is worried about him, too – they are on the border and can hear the shelling from Ukraine. We traded contact information in case we can help. And all over Italy they are flying the rainbow flag to signify “Pace” or “Peace.”

We definitely will miss these views:

But also happy to back to our “new” view – HOME.

Thanks for following along with us.  Until next time!   

Frank’s Heritage

Leave a comment Standard

While we were in Canicatti, we visited two very special places. 

Enza’s son, Salvio, drove to the oldest part of town – the “quartiere antico.”  We parked and had to search a few streets . . .

And we finally found it – the remains of the home where Frank’s mother lived as a girl – the home of his grandparents, whom he never got to meet. 

There is not much there now – just the walls, floor, and front steps.  But we could just picture the family sitting down to their own Pasqua or Antoinetta skipping down these streets.

We have been here before but there was too much debris to really see inside the house.  The debris has been removed, so we could finally could spy  . . . the window!  (If you look closely, you can see through the trees.)

The story goes that Frank’s father first saw his mother sitting in the window when she was just 16 and asked for her father for her hand in marriage.  Frank’s father went on to America and (we think), the two got married by proxy, which was common at the time for immigrants who were apart. He then sent for his new bride, and she sailed to Ellis Island when she was 18. All from sitting in this window.

It was very moving.  We said a prayer and reached in and took 3 stones from the crumbling walls – for each grandchild. A link from Frank’s grandparents to his granddaughters. We think Antoinetta would be proud.

Then a neighbor popped her head out.  Salvio explained what we were doing.  We think this woman’s family had lived on this street for many years, so she knew of the Buccheri Family.  She pointed us to the house around the corner – so off we went.

The orange house at the top of the stairs has been fixed up and was the home of Frank’s great-grandparents!  Antoinetta’s nonna and nonno.  Wow!

What a very meaningful day.

Pasquetta

Leave a comment Standard
Campanga Vista

After a huge Easter, Frank and I were invited to lunch with another side of the family.  This was to be a smaller affair.  But we should have known – nothing in Sicily is a small affair!  Our first hint was when we picked up Enza, dressed with flair.  : )

It turns out the day AFTER Easter is a big holiday, too – called Pasquetta (or “Little Easter”). 

As the family explained to us, Pasquetta is the day you go to your capagna (or country home) and grill out with family to celebrate the start of Spring.  (We aren’t sure if this is the case in all families, but everyone we know in Sicily seems to have a city home and a country home.)

Enza’s son, Johnny, drove us a little way’s out of town until there were trees and dirt roads, fronted by high stone walls.  We pulled up to a gate, and Johnny picked up a phone.  The gate opened to reveal a very nice country house indeed.

This was the capagna of Johnny’s in-laws (his wife, Monica’s, parents) – with beautiful vistas of the mountains . . .

A swimming pool in front of an olive grove (from which they press their own olive oil) . . .

Lemon and orange trees . . . .

And even a bust of Monica’s father presiding over the compound.

Inside, was a beehive of activity, while they sent Johnny and Frank to the outside kitchen to grill.

We had another feast of the traditional Pasquestta pasta, grilled sausages, grilled ribs, roasted potatoes, strawberries soaked in limoncello, and more tiramisu. 

Buona Pasquetta!

Buona Pasqua!  Part III (of III)

Leave a comment Standard

After an Easter lunch brimming with dishes and molto molto famiglia visiting, we all settled down to rest.  Some dozed off, while others called and Zoomed with family all over the world to wish them “Buona Pasqua” and “Happy Easter,” depending on where they were. 

But there was more!

The pizza dough had been rising all this time, and as the sun was setting, Mirella set to work making homemade pizza.

And in their very own outside pizza oven!  Wow!

Another feast!

We wound down the night, with more wine and limoncello, laughing and telling family stories.  Frank and I finally climbed the stairs to bed around midnight. We drifted off to sleep to the sound of laughter still ringing from downstairs. 

What a Pasqua!

Buona Pasqua!  Part II (of III)

Leave a comment Standard

Where we left off . . .

The whole family was resting after our delicious and huge Easter lunch – some dozing off, others talking.  When, to our surprise, all of a sudden there was a flurry of excitement – Part II was beginning!

Another part of the family, who had been at their own Easter lunch, came over to see us. 

This is the family of another of Frank’s first cousins.  They have had us to their home for dinner on past visits.  We had fun catching up on their lives. They have 3 children – one in high school, one at university in Milan, and one living in Milan working at Amazon.

We all sat back down for café, homemade tiramisu, and limoncello.

And finally – a family portrait.

A wonderful day!

But did you notice this was just Part II out of III?  Stay tuned . . . .

Buona Pasqua! Part I (of III)

Leave a comment Standard

Preparations for Pasqua Pranzo (Easter Lunch) went on all morning.

In the indoor kitchen . . . .

In the outdoor kitchen . . .

Even in the herb garden . . .

The smells were wonderful!

Finally, the family gathered for the feast.

First we ate bowls of fresh ricotta with whey poured over (that Frank and I helped pick up at the farm that morning).  Enza told us this helps with digestion to get our stomachs ready for the meal. 

Then pasta al forno made in the outdoor oven, agnello griglia (grilled lamb), and roasted potatoes and artichokes (plus various side dishes).

Finally fruit and the traditional dessert of Pasqua – the Colombe – a cake shaped like a dove that Mirella made herself. 

Whew – we all rested.

But it wasn’t over! Next up – Part II!

Getting Ready for Pasqua

Leave a comment Standard

It is a beautiful Easter Sunday in Canicatti!

But before we get to the pranzo (lunch), Frank and I were given a very important job – to accompany Benedetto (Mirella’s husband) to pick up fresh ricotta. 

Frank asked whether the market was even open on Easter.  The family just looked at us.  It turns out we were not going to a store – we were going straight to the source! 

We rode out into the countryside on a winding one-lane road, where you had to back up to let other cars go by – even passing by a herd of sheep, who had the right of way.

At the farm, there were dozens and dozens of sheep.

Workers were milking the sheep as fast as they could – the foreman yelling, “Vai, Vai, Vai” (Go, Go Go) and making the cheese right there.  Other cars like ours drove up a few at a time, ducking into the cheese room to carefully select their wheels or baskets of ricotta fresca for Easter lunch. Amazing!

Easter in Sicily.

Canicatti!

Leave a comment Standard

It took a 3-hour taxi ride to get there, but we finally made it to Canicatti! This is the town where Frank’s mother was born and he has molto molto famiglia. 

We have had such a great visit.  LOTS of good food, wine, and talking and laughing into the wee hours. 

We stayed with Mirella, Enza’s daughter (Enza is Frank’s first cousin – it was Enza’s father that took Frank’s mother to the ship in Naples to sail to Ameirica.) 

Their home is like a palazzo!

This is just our first evening.  I will post more pictures and stories.  Frank and I love to look back on these memories. 

We are exhausted now!  I have all kinds of Italian phrases running through my head.  I also am not sure I will be ready to eat for another few days!

And this was just the start . . . .

P.S.  They make their own limoncello and arancello (from their own lemon and orange trees), plus a special version called Verdello, which is limoncello with cinnamon and cloves.  VERY strong, leading to much laughter.

To Canicatti!

Leave a comment Standard

Our real adventure begins today!  Frank has a huge family in Sicily.  Both of his parents emigrated to the United States from Sicily.  His father, Angelo, was from Castrofilippo (near Agrigento) and went back and forth to the US a couple of times before (as the story goes) spying a young woman in the window of her house in Canicatti, Sicily – the next village over.  He asked for her hand, the match was set, and they were wed, all in the span of a month.  She was just 16 years old.

Angelo went back to America to earn enough to send for his bride, Antoinetta.  Frank’s mother arrived at Ellis Island a couple of years later.  She was 18 years old and meeting a husband she had really only known for a few weeks in a new country. 

They settled in Brooklyn and raised their family.

But . . . all of her brothers and sisters stayed in Sicily, so all of Frank’s cousins are here.  Lots of them.  And most of them are still in Canicatti.

We have been to Canicatti many times and gotten to know them – and Frank’s first cousin, Enza, has come to stay with us in Annapolis (some of you have met her!).

This picture is Enza and Frank in front of what is left of the home of Frank’s grandparents – where his mom, Antoinetta, grew up.

When we planned our trip to Italy, we weren’t sure how much we could visit with COVID, but decided to at least try to see the family and sent word of our plans.  Well, Italians being Italians, everything seems to come together, albeit in a chaotic fashion, at the very end. 

So we are setting out today for Canicatti to celebrate Pasqua (Easter).  By now all the rental cars are taken so we have ordered a taxi, believe it or not.  We have asked the taxi to drive us to Canicatti (3 hours away) and pick us up on Monday night.  We will be staying with the family.

Who in the world knows what will happen over the next few days – but I am sure it will be filled with joy, boisterous conversation, wine, celebrations, tears, and unexpected adventures. 

See you on the other side!

P.S.  Anticipating this moment, we picked up souvenirs in Paris.  Then picked up wrapping paper and tape (which they just call “Scotch”) in Venice.  In Taormina, we picked up beautiful Easter cakes and giant chocolate eggs, which are the tradition here.  Even arriving by taxi in the middle of Sicily, you have to have good manners.  : )

The Rooftop!

Leave a comment Standard

These stairs take you to the best part of our apartment . . .

Our private terrace on the roof!

This is my favorite place to work – with a view of the volcano, Mount Etna, on one side – see the smoke coming out?

The town of Castemola high up on the hill behind us

And the Mediterranean sparkling below.

You can see why we love Sicilia! (And why this is my favorite apartment in all of Italy!)