Buon Natale the La Dolce Whatever Way! 

Have been traveling and spending holiday time with my family. I can’t wait to get caught up with my blog and with reporting all the La Dolce Whatever Way happenings after the New Year! 

Tanti Auguri — Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from La Dolce Whatever! 

Mulled Wine!
The Golden Arno River, Florence, Italy
Sunset, Florence, Tuscany

Scenes from Fonte delle Monache at Natale.
Nighttime Christmas street scene in Rome and a Florence.

On being sick in Italy…oops, I’m sick again…

OK, so I have to put off my blog about being sick and Italy AGAIN, because I got sick again. I’m trying to rest and do things right this time, since I have some travel coming up — except to say that I have amazing neighbors who certainly came through when I need them! They helped me contacting doctors and the Farmacia. Also, the Farmacia in Montefino was AMAZING as well. And I’m grateful to neighbors bringing me pasta soup and generally making sure that I don’t die.

img_1257 But of course, that is what living here in Montefino is all about, isn’t it? You’re never really alone and there are always people around who will help you and who care about you. More later, as you could see from the cover photo, I don’t really even have to leave my bed very much!

img_1254-2img_1255-1I still find the fizzy aspirin to be kind of weird and interesting though. More on that in my later blog. Time for ear drops and more sleep.

img_1256-1
Cin Cin!

Italy’s Thanksgiving Spirit: A La Dolce Whatever Holiday Tale

My first Thanksgiving at Fonte was an interesting experiment, a lot of work and a lot of fun! And it helped me realize an important element of my Italian experience. I was going to have to be alone again on this second Thanksgiving at Montefino, because of a confluence of scheduling changes and since my family is joining me for Christmas, so I decided to invite local guests to feel less homsick on a holiday that plays on the emotional heartstrings so much. But, I also  realized that a party, a “Festa,” on a work night could be a bit problematic, so I thought about moving my celebration to the weekend. But what would be the point?

Norman Rockwell -artist
Norman Rockwell -artist

On the 4th Thursday in November is when I would be wistfully thinking about all of my American friends and loved ones, eating turkey and celebrating one of my favorite holidays without me — not the weekend before or after. I mean, wasn’t the whole point of my Thanksgiving dinner was that I didn’t I want to spend the actual holiday on my own?

One of my worst Thanksgivings was spent in the Frankfurt international airport , on the phone with my then-college aged son back home with the rest of our extended family having the traditional turkey dinner. I was flying from an organic Agriturismo farm in Puglia, Italy where I had stayed for several months to Thailand for a few weeks before Christmas, in my own “Eat, Pray but not Love” adventure during my divorce, 10 years ago. It had been a year of changes and highs and lows. Holding back tears as I spoke to my son, 4000 miles away, on that lonely Thanksgiving, was definitely one of the lows…

img_0993

So, I was determined to have a festive Thanksgiving, on the actual day of the American holiday this year at my wonderful new home in Montefino. And, although my closest loved ones would be far away from me, it turned out to be a pretty great one. But I also learned some of the limitations of having this particular holiday in rural Italy. And if am going to spend other Thanksgiving holidays here at Montefino in the future, putting together a social gathering more like a traditional American Thanksgiving is going to be a process.

When I first spoke to people about inviting them over for Thanksgiving, they had some ideas about our quintessentially North American holiday, but they did not understand that it was not on a set date and it definitely wasn’t something that I could move to the weekend. It was hard to explain that it was on the fourth Thursday in November and and almost always a daytime celebration. And that Americans generally made it a weeklong or at least a four day weekend celebration if they possibly could. This is what probably makes it possible for busy Americans to still celebrate this labor intensive, high calorie, family and football-filled day!

img_0971

(Anyway, Italians don’t really need a special national holiday for these things; here it is simply Sunday dinner.)

But Italians are also unfailingly polite and kind so I think they knew that this was very important to me. My friends very sweetly said that they would at least try to come by and I think some of them knew that eating, at least something would be necessary to help me be less homesick on that day.img_0917-1To make sure that no one felt bad, I painstakingly put together this invitation, to let them know they were welcome to come for a drink or for dinner or whatever they wanted. They were just welcome to stop by and help brighten up what otherwise would’ve been a lonely Thanksgiving without my family.

 

Thanksgiving may not seem Italian one the surface but welcoming newcomers and helping them get settled into their  home certainly is. So I guess I had a REAL Thanksgiving at Fonte Della Monache, in the most pure sense. Grazie, Italia! Thank you for making me feel welcome. Thank you for your warmth, your friendship, your beauty, and for your endless patience. Italians  show settlers like me the spirit of Thanksgiving every day!

Relaxing at Twighlight
Relaxing at Twighlight

What’s in a Name? Fonte delle Monache — The Nun’s Spring…

…or Well. Or Font. Or Fountain. Or Source. Or, back to Spring? There are several ways the word ‘Fonte’ –the first word of the Italian name, can be translated. I thought that I had decided on WELL but now I’m not sure.

Fonte delle Monache is the Italian name of my olive farm, with its pretty house. I want to hang a sign that has the Italian name with an English translation but it is not as easy as it might seem. A good translation needs a touch of the poet and an understanding of historical context as much as the skill of a linguist. So I’ve been trying to learn more about the name of my restored Abruzzo olive farm to help me decide (below is the grotto built around the ancient spring).


The second word is ‘delle’ which is “of the.” Easy Peasy!

Finally, comes, ‘Monache’ which is a mass noun — the word “Nuns.” This is not to be confused with the other Italian word for Nun, which is ‘Suora’ as in “Sister Maria” or “the Sister.” ‘Suora’ for Catholic nuns in Italy comes the word sorella, which is for a sister in a family (below are Carmelite nuns, including my chosen Confirmation Saint Teresa Little Flower doing laundry as “public penance”).

But the word ‘Monache’ refers to a group of nuns who live in a cloistered or religious community. It cannot be used as a personal title the way ‘Suora’ can be. ‘Le Monache’ has a male equivalent, ‘Il Monaco’ which means “monk.” The genus of these words mean “single” and “alone.” So, it is fascinating for me think that the nuns who used the spring at Fonte were from a cloistered religious community. Especially since I have not seen anything that looks like a cloister or any kind of convent nearby. After reading some history about the early Church in rural areas, I did discover that this could’ve meant some sort of informal group of deeply religious women… but I’ll have to do more research. I’m still learning about the history of Fonte and about the little grotto with the ancient spring over which my restored farmhouse was built.


I also figured out that I have been pronouncing the name of my own farm wrong for more than a year. I wonder how many times all of the kind Italians around me must’ve silently wondered if I was daft? I had been using a soft SH sound instead of the hard KAY sound. This completely obliterates the name. So, I must start pronouncing it properly with the hard KAY sound: Fontay dela Monakay, instead of Fontay dela Monashay. Otherwise it does not say what it means which is “the well (or the spring or the fountain) of the nuns (inside the grotto, which I hope to restore more later, with the beautiful possibly thousands of years old, flowstone covered with burlap to protect it from the sun).

So, what IS in a name? In Italy, there can be a lot in a name. History, a description, romance — long forgotten local lore. I love everything about my little olive farm here in Montefino, but even before I saw my delightful, mossy grotto filled with sisterns of water from faraway mountains, the name itself, enchanted me. Fonte delle Monache. The ancient “Spring of the Nuns.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Fonte delle Monache ~The Nuns’ Spring

Cooking and Meals, etc. –La Dolce Whatever Style! 

I have pretty much been making Spaghetti with Pomodoro sauce since I arrived, when I have eaten at all, but I am finally well enough to start making some “real” food. Today was breaded chicken cutlets Marsala with fresh sage and thyme. The herbs are from my kitchen garden. The lightly sautéed spinach is from my Winter garden. I had a glass of Pinot Chardonnay Prosecco. It was a perfect early dinner.


Before I started cooking, I took a picture of the view from my front porch. It started snowing in the Maiella mountains. Perhaps we will have a normal winter after all. That will be really good for my olive harvest next year. This year was not very good, between a unseasonably warm winter last year, heavy pruning in the spring and heavy rains during the summer and fall.

My flu or cold or whatever it is, is about three quarters better. Not quite there yet though… I’m still taking those fizzy things that I was given at the Farmacia although I have no idea if they’re working. More on being sick in a small Italian village soon. 

Living the true, La Dolce…Whatever! life: Or, gelato and rum for dinner. 

Domani – domani! My ambitious blog on being a single American woman sick in a small rural village will not get written and my lovely marsala sage chicken will not get cooked tonight. After going shopping and finding some amazing bargains (local wine on sale for about $2 a liter!), I was so tired when I got home that I just decided to have Italian rum and some gelato for dinner. I don’t think that I’ve been this tired in a very long time. And I certainly don’t feel like trying to write anything coherent. I got some wonderful Marsala and Sicilian pomodoro sauce, Bottles of Prosecco for about $3 each and some great Italian herbs and spices and other staples, but I’m just plain done in. I’ll work on my blog and try to get back into the Montefino/Fonte delle Monache groove tomorrow. But, that is the special thing about writing a blog and living “La Dolce…Whatever!, isn’t it?

The Day After the Day After the Day After the Day After…

I temporarily settled in this ancient land for the same reason many foreigners have in the less costly places of Italy for the last couple of centuries. We came to a place where the sun shines on a country that is filled with history that isn’t our own. To be with people who have withstood sorrows and pain that are not our own. We come for the food that is always perfect and the scenery that keeps our minds off our troubles. We come for the generous spirit of the Italian people — and the women, whether they will admit it or not, come for the cheery, “Ciao, Bella” that comes ringing out from a smiling Italian man, willing to stop for a moment while harvesting his olives to admire her going by on her bicycle on an autumn morning. Italy is a place for non-Italians to heal and to thrive. For Italians, well, that’s another matter and another story.

~~ Quote from an essay I wrote in 2005, during my divorce and after GW Bush was reelected in 2004

November 12, 2016. I bought my Italian olive farm a year ago, little knowing that it would turn into a political refuge for me. This is not going to be a political blog but there is now a political element to my deciding to live at Fonte delle Monache (I’ll explain the name in full during a later posting — it is lovely — The Nun’s Spring) full-time after only planning to live here part time. If you support the man who is going to be president in January, you are welcome here. But understand that I hate everything that he stands for and that you will probably not be happy when politics comes up here. But again, you’re welcome. You likely need some information and education about the world.
As you know from the previous postings, I have wanted a little place in Italy for a long time and as you can see from the quote above, Italy has been an emotional refuge for me for a long time. But now it is going to become a sort of a home for me. And that is all right. It is a wonderful place. I’m not saying that the politics, or everything and everybody here are enlightened and perfect. But it is not my home and I do not expect as much from this place as I did from my America. So what you’re going to get here are my musings and my adventures at Fonte, Montefino, Italy and during my wanderings around the world, including visits back to the US to see my loved ones. And yes sometimes I will write about my angst and fears about what is happening back home. But mostly we’re going to have fun as I tell you about the amazing things that I encounter along the way. 


Italy is a magical place. It is a place where the sun shines most of the time – – and even when it doesn’t the scenery is so gorgeous, the food is so delicious and the wine is so intoxicating, that you don’t care. Also where the people have managed to stay sweet, friendly and kind, even though life has been unimaginably hard, off and on, for a long time. That’s more than I can say for a lot of places where I’ve lived.

Maybe the time here at my farm will soften me. But, the morning after the election, at the airport in Rome, when my Uber driver mentioned the election, I burst into tears and apologized to him –and the world. I was really sobbing. He apologized to me for bringing it up. Then he told me that other countries have elected worse people. After I choked out that “this is different,” he agreed. 

This working man in Rome, told me, “Yes – – America is must be a shining light and now it is only darkness.” 

That is it. Now it is only darkness. 

But he smiled at me and he told me “Benvento — Welcome to Italy. You will feel better. We will make you feel better!”

Even in France, when I encountered an Italian girl and her boyfriend who were sweet and kind to me, helping me with my bags (no French people helped, btw). I used one of my strategies for dealing with the next four years.  Et puis, maintenant, je serai Canadianne! 

“I’m Canadian, eh?” 

“What part of Canada?”

“Washington, DC.” 

“Oh.” 

Hmm…needs more work…

~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m going to have to figure out how to deal with the village in Montefino. I prepared by emailing my best friends to warn the villagers not to mention the election unless they want to deal with me bursting into sobbing tears. I guess we’ll see how that goes when I am well enough to finally go up to the coffee bar.

Right now, I’m just happy to be here at my beautiful farmhouse. I own it completely — no mortgage, no encumbrances and that is an amazing feeling. I have my residence visa and I will be applying for my residence permit to be able to stay for the year. After five years I will be able to apply for permanent residence. I guess we’ll see how 2020 goes. 


I will wander around and say hello to my Castilignese olive trees. Yes, I do that. I touch them and I look at them and I greet them. I am thankful that I own these beautiful 200+-year-old masterpieces of nature. I own them — or they own me. Sometimes I’m not sure which. 


I will pray at the Nun’s Spring grotto and I will try to ask Mother Mary to tell me why She has done this to my country. I will ask Her what lesson we need to learn from this devastation. I will be praying for peace and wisdom over the next four years. There has to be some reason that this is happened to us. Not the kind of thing that those awful backward preachers talk about like hurricanes being brought on by gay sex. But I do believe that things happen for a reason. I now have to figure out what we need to learn from this calamity that has happened.


And I will sit and listen to my fountain near the porch, as I gaze out toward the mountain range in the distance. I will listen to the drops of water fall and I will try to remember the good in the world.  I will try to remember that four years is but one drop of water in the river of life. There are others with more strength than I have that are going to fight to right wrongs and make things better. But I just can’t. I’m so tired and I just don’t have the strength. I’m just going to try to live a meaningful life here, I’m going to produce wonderful olive oil, grow delicious fruit and beautiful flowers and try to be a good person. I’m going to write about beauty and goodness and I’m going to give money that I have to those who are fighting the good fight back home and for the poor and helpless abroad, as I advise everybody reading this to do. Right now that’s all I can manage. 

Pace — peace.