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.
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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