Hello dear readers,
I have just returned from one of the most wonderful trips to the beautiful country of Italy. Italy is motherland to me as it was the homeland to my entire family up until my generation, which was the first to be born in Canada. Every time I return to Italy, I have a feeling of pride and nostalgia as I know my ancestors once walked this land and fought the wars. I hear the language, I smell the espresso, I take in the art, I stumble and almost fall on the uneven pavement of the street and I think yep, I'm Italian. I know I would fit in well since I am fluent enough (credit must be given to my parents who reinforced Italian school on saturdays for 12 years), I know the culture and appreciate the style...too much. Yet, having grown in Canada, there are too many things I would miss from Montreal (family, friends, efficiency, space) for me to consider permanently moving there. That is why each time I go, I seem to want to bring back bits and pieces of the old country with me to relive the moments and remember the sacrifices that were made for me to be living well here in "America". Each time I go, I recharge the Italian batteries in me, I eat loads of pasta, drink the home made wine, bring back avant-guarde outfits and steal a bit of their proud character. Once I am back in Montreal, I feel energized and even more italianized.
Carbonara. A word that has been redefined this summer. Pasta alla carbonara is a simple recipe, usually my favourite and one that I make quite often. Unfortunately, I realized that my version does not hold a candle to what I had the privilege of savouring in Rome. Creamy, al dente and pancetta cooked just right, all blended and peppered to perfection. Hmmm!
Middle soldier: my grandfather, Rinaldo Lemme
On a more heroic note, when I have spaghetti in Italia, I sometimes think back to a story my late grandfather use to tell me over and over again (because I badgered him to). While away at war, at the young age of 19, my nonno Rinaldo was captured and made prisoner while in Greece and was sent to Germany in a concentration camp. In these camps, luckily, they were allowed to roam around freely during the day. Food was scarce and hard to find as he had but a few dollars, if any, in his pocket. During those hard times, he explained to me that loud sirens would often go on to warn the small town to take cover in refuges when enemies would strike. Nonno said that the refuge was usually crammed, dirty and not the most pleasant of places to be in as you can imagine. I remember him saying that since no one knew exactly how long they would be stuck in there, women would often grab whatever clothing, towels and food that they could find, take their children and make a run for the refuge. Just like we see in the movies, everyone would rush in pure survival mode to make it to the refuge and stay alive. That was the goal in those days.
Then there was that one moment where my grandfather heard the siren and, amidst the chaos as he was running, he saw a pile of towels on the ground. Probably a pile of clothing a lady dropped on her way to the refuge, he thought. As he approached it, he found a baby crying wrapped up inside. He froze, but knew he could not leave the child behind. His friend told him to leave it there and save his own skin. But he took the baby in his arms and headed to the refuge. As he entered it, a woman was crying inconsolably and desperately. He knew then that the baby must have been hers. He approached her and said "did you lose this on your way out?" and the mother jumped for joy as she had found her child. My nonno had saved it. In return for his grand gesture, the mother, who was a baker in the village, offered him all the coupons that she could give him that he could then exchange for food. He told me that the next day, he went to the bakery and ordered bread and spaghetti. He went outside, sat down and ate the spaghetti with his own bare hands. He had not eaten a warm meal in the longest time. A small reminder that we, I, have it good and it is my moral imperative to eat and enjoy as much pasta as I can ;)
Throughout my trip, I was astonished at the behaviour of scooter drivers in Italia in comparison to Montreal. Don't get me wrong, I know just how crazy Italian drivers are. I have been to Italia ten times now, I even enjoy getting rides from Italian drivers because they drive fast, recklessly but confidently and they have earned my trust for it. Part of my atsonishment is due to the fact that now, as a Vespa driver, I can appreciate the risk of their insane behaviour on the road even more. Italian two-wheeler drivers are crazy. Just plane crazy. They take it to another level altogether driving at all kinds of speeds, sometimes without helmets, three people on the seat while one of them is texting. I actually spotted an old man holding an enormous package with one hand and driving with the other while going down a steep road in Positano (if you have never been, it's comparable to San Francisco hills). Yet, car drivers know this and cooperate well with the scooters. Letting them pass in front of them avoiding full on frontal collisions at the very last minute for example. This kind of driving in Montreal would be tolerated by our patient drivers but very dangerous as it is too unexpected. In addition, two-wheelers are greatly outnumbered here whereas they own the roads in Italy. There is also a certain romantic aspect in riding on a scooter with your significant other while staying in Italy particularly: one person holding on to the other as the engine rattles, feeling the wind swishing through your hair and clothing meanwhile surrounding by a stunning panoramic view.
Photography at its finest!
On another note, I definitely took advantage of my early bird tendencies to get up extra early and snap pictures of the spectacular piazzas when not a soul is there to photo bomb your shots. As an early bird, I find the early hours of the day are priceless and allow you to start your engines ahead of the rumbling mainstream crowd. The world is still sleeping, the sky is starting to lighten, everything is calm - making me feel 20 steps ahead of everyone else. Speaking of steps, there they are in all their glory: The famous Spanish Steps of Rome "Piazza di Spagna" (see picture below). It was 5:30 AM and yes I was feeling tired and almost sick to my stomach but once we arrived, everything changed. I felt like we had reserved the Spanish Steps just for us and that they were quietly waiting for our arrival. I actually prefer their look at this time of day with the blue sky contrasting against them. It was empty! Not a soul in sight. A place where it is usually impossible to have less than 100 strangers in your pictures, was now calm and serene. It looked as though it was peacefully resting before starting yet another day and welcoming thousands of people. I guess the old country also needs to recharge its batteries once in a while to preserve its beauty. Priceless.
As we enter the month of august (siiiigh), the vacation feel is still in the air. Though the weather seems to have cooled just a little (the weather obsession and analysis continues), we are still all sporting our brightly colored outfits, riding our shined two wheelers and enjoying one scoop of ice cream...or two. Ok so multiple scoops of ice cream. These are the days where we feel lighter, indulge in summer's best and feel better. Why? Probably because we are having fun. We slip into our sandals, grab our keys and we are out the door! Everything is quicker, easier and less physically demanding. If you count putting up with a two-week heat wave as physically demanding, let's talk again at minus 30 degrees this winter. Regardless of the season however, it is still an imperative to include fun in your every day life. Having fun can range from the little things like a nice stroll on the sunny side of the street to something a bit more intense like riding in a rollercoaster. We all have our own definition of it. In the interest of simplicity, let us stick to the smaller things that generate fun, like treating yourself well and laughter.
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted -John Lennon
Treating yourself well
Think this is obvious right? Well, let me ask you: did you eat your lunch under ten minutes? Or perhaps your ate at your desk? When is the last time you smiled at something insignificant to others but important to you, in public? If you keep avoiding opportunities that allow you to recharge your batteries and stimulate your thought process, you will inevitably miss out on good times and wear yourself out. These moments where we can let go and transition from one emotion to another are powerful. Feeling stressed or wired? Have lunch with a friend and then go for a walk. Pay attention to your surroundings. Or better yet, if you are close enough to an art gallery, why not peek a look at a canvas or two? This usually gets creative juices flowing and shifts our focus away from the daily routine and common patterns; possibly making you also more productive at work and boosting your energy level as well. Once again, this also allows us to share a one on one moment with ourselves and enable us to be in the here and now more often. It's the little things, there's nothing bigger than that. As Ferris Bueller said so well in 1986:
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
A fabulous movie (in my top 10), I strongly recommend it if you haven't seen it. Point being: humans have a tendency of punishing themselves when they need it least. A classic example: "I missed the gym today, so I will feel guilty all day and mentally destroy my ego". Ok, so you missed a training session and you're not too proud, fine, agreed. But big deal. Make it a choice and take ownership. Be at the source of not at the mercy of your actions. An overly active sense of guilt can tarnish your days and throw you in a downward spinning cycle. Break that cycle before it even begins: tomorrow is another day and go to the gym you shall! In the meantime, enjoy what you can do with today.
How many times have you laughed today?
There is nothing I like to hear more than someone's infectious laughter. I can't help but smile even if I have no idea was the person is laughing about. Just knowing that he or she is happy and is expressing it reminds me not to take myself too seriously. Now, let me ask you this: When was the last time you let out a hardy laugh? Now I know some of you just rolled your eyes at my post thinking "who has time for this?" yet, experiencing a happy moment (aka having fun) is important for your mental and physical health. Physically, when we laugh, the muscles in our face stretch and we are using belly muscles as well while our pulse accelerates, sending more oxygen to our tissues (R. Morgan Griffin). We also tend to physically relax afterwards. On a more psychological level and in my opinion, laughing, either by ourselves or in company, allows us to reconnect with who we are and the best of who we are as well. Additionally, when sharing a good laugh with another person or with a group, this increases a sense of bonding with the other individual(s). I, for that matter, am able to laugh just as much (if not more) at the same joke or same movie parts repeatedly, like in Ferris Bueller. If, unlike me, you need new material continuously to trigger your laugh, then I strongly suggest you seek it on a daily basis - it's a a good investment, abiding by my "no regrets" motto. Go out there and have some fun, it will pay back, seriously.
P.S. I will not be posting in the next two weeks as I will be out of the city ;)
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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