June 2018

We celebrated Annalisa’s 30 years at the Carroarmato by tasting some wonderful wines and laughing and sharing.

Here is a photo of us toasting Cristina Geminiani after tasting her fabulous Scacco Matto, a passito made from Albana grapes.

 

 

And now to slip in to reminiscence.

At the age of sixteen I took my first after-school job. My mother intended this to be a simple character-building exercise. For me it became an entry into the first of my careers. Had I applied at the supermarket as she imagined I would, my life would have turned out differently. Instead a school friend took me to the radio station owned by her father.  He said I had a good voice and hired me on the spot.

For a few hours every afternoon I recorded commercials in a small beige room and on Saturdays I read the local news into a microphone the size of a prizefighter’s fist.

This led to a summer job at the black soul station in a nearby city. Its studio occupied two floors of a narrow corner building across the street from the university. My first day on the job I slipped into the thread-bare office chair in my little booth and looked through the thick glass window at the D.J., an exceedingly tall and muscular young man going to the university on a basketball scholarship.  He flashed me a wide, reassuring smile. Tammy Tyrell and Marvin Gaye warbled “The world is just a great big onion. Ah huh.”

My hands shook. The pages of my script rustled.  I took deep breaths, hoping to calm down.  I adjusted my trendy wire-rimmed specs and brushed the dark, uneven bangs from my forehead. More deep breathing. Again the D.J. flashed me a smile. He turned a knob and Tammy and Marvin faded. He moved in close to the mike and crooned in his Barry White Voice: “Now let’s welcome my sexy little news mama.”  My hands stopped shaking: I was horrified.  Sexy Little News Mama!!!  What if my father was listening!

I filled my ten-minute spot with news about local fires, marijuana busts and the highlights (if they could be called that) of the most recent city council meeting. The second our mikes were off I charged into his booth ready to do battle with the D. J.  “Wow,” he said mildly. “I’ve never seen anyone turn pink before.” From that day forward his goal was to make me blush. My three months at this job prepared me for anything radio could dish up and left me with an abiding fondness for Marvin Gaye.

Here is a link to The Onion Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ElC4UwYVuA

 

June 2016

June 2016

1Patrizia Cantini’s new e-book: Patrizia’s Italian Cookbook: 100 authentic recipes from Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna.  As she writes in the introduction:

“I can assure you that the 100 recipes you will find in this book are all true recipes, and many of them come from my family. My mother Mirella was in fact born in Emilia Romagna and then she moved to Florence, where she met and married my father Giorgio. So, I was born in a family with a double culinary tradition.”  The recipes are easy to follow and each is accompanied by a lovely photo of the finished dish. If you like cooking and love Italian food, give this book a try. You can find it at:  http://amzn.to/1WAKMRk

24 June  Art

We head off to a Palladian villa near Lonigo for an art exhibition.  Who is showing we asked Ugo (who, along with his wife, is taking us there in their car.)

“Oh, it’s for emmerging artists,” he says with adismissive wave of his hand. This is the kind ofvauge answer he always give and indicates that he does not know the answer.

We arrive at the lovely villa and discover that the two featured aritists were both born in the 1930. It’s about time they emerged, I thought.

The paintings were…well…old. Old ideas, old exicution.  There were several monochrome paintings: large canvases spray painted with a flat even color. Atisits have been tinkering with this idea since the late 1800s and have continued right on up through the 1960s.

2I was reminded of the play Art by Yasmina Reza (translated into the English by Christopher Hampton). In it a fellow pays an incredible amount of money for a plain white canvas, expecting his best friend to praise his choice. This does not happen. Instead what follows is a series of arguments about the nature of art and an examination of friendship.

But back to the art show at the villa. The venue was lovely.  Here is an atristic  photo of the villa’s resident cat.

 

 

5 June  Happy Carro Armato Day

3We stopped into the Osteria Carroarmato for a visit and Annalisa sat down to chat. “I opened the Carro Armato twenty-eight years ago today,” she announced. “Let’s celebrate.” Champagne, a fine Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc followed. We were joined by Stefania and Ugo.

“I can remember the very first time Patricia and Michael came in here,” she said. “They ordered Tocai Rosso.”

“Wow, what a memory!” said Stefania.

“Oh, I don’t remember everything. Only exception al things. And believe me, 24 years ago foreigners did not order Tocai Rosso! Patricia and Michael were interesting and we started talking.”

And twenty-four years later Annalisa is my best friend in Verona (and one of my 6 truly close friends in the world).   Above is a photo of Annalisa and me and my wedding dinner.

2 June Chievo fans celebrate!

4aWe are off to a Chievo event in Valpolicella.  Michael suggested I bring a sudoku magazine. He tried to bring me up to date on the team gossip – who is staying and speculation on a possible new coach.

I arranged my features into a listening pose while thinking of that Gary Larsen cartoon that shows a person talking to his dog. In a balloon over the dog’s head we see what the dog hears: Blah, blah, Ginger, blah, blah, blah.

I actually love this annual event. There’s dancing ancinet disco music. There is always a conga line (called a trenino -little train).

5Several Chievo calico fan clubs gathered in the lovely little Valpolicella hamlet of Bure, to eat and hobnob with the owner of the Chievo team, Luca Campadelli.  What a nice man he is.  Here is a photo of Michael, Campadelli and our pal Maurizio. Campadelli always comes to this event to show his support.  The other big news is that we won a huge Parmesan cheese wedge in the lottery.

 

 

DSCN0362The tail-end of May…I decided to clean out the closet where we keep our wine.  The goal was to see how much of the 5 boxes of mature wine was still drinkable.  And the only way to find that out is to open them.  I called Susan H. and suggested she come to Verona and we could cart 6 of the around 40 bottles to the Carroarmato and taste them with Annalisa, her staff and any clients of the osteria who would appreciate older vintages.  Alas, I made this plan without consulting Annalisa first. She had already decided to close the Carroarmato on the day named.  I decided to pull the cork on 6 wines with Susan and Michael. Two of the wines were good and 2 of them were sublime. The other two had succumbed to old age.  4 out of 6 was a better average than I had anticipated.  The good wines were a Tomasso Bussola TB Amarone 1990 and a Weingut Adalbert Jung Rheinhessen 1992 Riesling Auslese.  The Great Wines were a 1997 Opiz One from Willie Opiz.  It was vivacious and fruity and fresh.  And….  1985 Fieramonte Amarone from Allegrini. Yes, this is a picture of the wine in front of our pizza dinner. The wine was stunning in its elegance: dried cherry fruit finely woven with darker tertiary flavors. A hush of a finish that stays long on the palate and in the memory.

NOVEMBER 2015

1aFirst, as always, books by friends: Killed in the Ratings by William L. De Andrea. This was his first novel and won The Edgar (The top award from the Mystery Writers of America).

 

I met Bill at an MWA cocktail party in New York. He came over to me and said: “Look around. We are the only two people in this room who are under thirty. Let’s blow this pop stand.” And we did. We went to a diner for burgers and then to a movie. He was a witty and kind man, who died much too soon (aged 44).

 

Re-reading this book made me nostalgic for a world where the memory of elevator operators in posh buildings was still green and payphones were on every corner. Cellphones that do everything have certainly made it more difficult for mystery writers today. An entertaining book. I plan on re-reading his other novels.

 

30 November Cooking at San Mattia
We set off for Corte San Mattia Agriturismo (www.sanmattia.it), Giovanni Ederle’s lovely restaurant and hostelry. The view from the terrace is stunning. If you want an agriturismo holiday, this is the place! We are here for a cooking demonstration and have brought Stanley, who behaves impeccably. He spends some time sniffing the Agriturismo Dog and inviting her to play. She sits like a rock, aware of him but uninterested in the jumping, leaping, racing around play that Stanley has in mind.

What I learned: If you want to peel onions without tears either hold the onion under hot water before cutting or wear sunglasses.

 

29 November Go Chievo
1bWe head out for Montorio and a big pre-game lunch organized by our soccer fan club (Chievo is Life) for three Udinese fan clubs. Chievo will be playing Udine this afternoon. “May the best team win,” says a Chievo fan across from me. This is why I love Chievo – the players and followers are so nice. Along with the 220 sports fans there is a crew from the RAI (the Italian National television company). Stanley – decked out in his Chievo scarf – is a big hit with them. We hope he makes the Dominica Sportiva program tonight.

 

27 November Golosario A-go-go
3We make our way to the La Collina dei Ciliegi winery (www.lacollinadeiciliegi.it )to attend a presentation for the annual Il Golosario guide, compiled by Paolo Massobrio. (www.ilgolosario.it ) The book has over 1000 pages and is chocked-full of information about some of Italy’s best food and wine producers. A few of them were on hand, showing their wares. I cannot even begin to convey the purity of flavors on offer. Among my favorites were B73, a maker of organic jams, sauces and liquors; Az. Agr. Vallier, makers of an array of products based on walnuts and La Giardiniera di Morgan – I have never tasted such fresh, crisp vegetables preserved in white wine vinegar. I could go on and on. If you are in Italy and you want the best local products The Golosario guide is for you.

 

By the way, I tried the Il Corvino 2014 from La Collina dei Ciliegi and found it fresh, fruity easy-drinking. The price is right too. Around a tenner.

 

I spotted a pleasant looking man heading for the door and asked him for a ride down the hill to Grezzane, where we could catch the bus. When he found out that our final destination was Verona, he very graciously offered to take us there. During the ride we found out his name was Savino Poffa and he owns Trattoria Urbana Mangia Fuoco in Brescia. (www.trattoriamangiafuoco.it ). Around 15 years ago he and some friends started an organization to save racing greyhounds called GACI, which stands for Greyhound Adopt Center Italy. (www.adozionilevrieri.it.)

 

“The dogs were kept in cages and only let out to run. When their racing days were over they were put down. So the average life span was around 4 years. My Josie is 15,” says Savino, referring to one of the dogs he adopted. “She is a wonderful dog. Sometimes she comes to work with me.”

 

25 November Zanoni at the Carroarmato.
4We are the Carroarmato (www.carroarmato.it ) for a dinner and tasting of Pietro Zanoni’s Valpolicellas (www.pietrozanoni.it) Our Pal Ugo is the moderator and Graziano Guandalini (www.grazianoguandalini.sitiwebs.com) masterfully plays the upright piano.

 

I ask Pietro: “What’s new?” He replies: “I’ve got a cat. My daughter named it Tito. I’ve never had an indoor cat. It sleeps on the bed!” He says this last bit with real wonder in his voice.

 

Annalisa, the owner of the Carroarmato, is a great fan of Pietro’s Valpolicellas. She likes their fresh, direct style.

 

Tonight we taste 4 vintages: 2013, 2011, 2009 and 2007. All were fresh and firm. My favorite of the evening was the 2011. It has a rich undertow of ripe fruit, with an almost orange-zest sensation. A very, very nice wine. Michael describes it thus: “Like the pages of an old book…the smooth texture of a well-read book.” I feel I have infected him with my bookishness.

 

23 Durello in Milan
6I am up at 6 a.m. to walk the dog and get some work done before heading out on the Soave Bus that will take us to Milan for the Big Durello/Sparkling Wine tasting.
We arrive. Susan H. and I have a productive meeting, kicking around some ideas for a mutual project. Then off to the tasting. We sit through the press conference. A representative from Euposia (www.euposia.it) says he will announce the winners of the Euposia mega sparkling wine tasting, at which I was a judge. However he does not reveal all the winners. But we do find out the winner in the White Sparkling Wines made from Indigenous Varieties category is – a Durello. This makes everyone very happy.

The winning wine is from Sacra Mundi. It is fresh and clean, with a pleasingly tart flavor.

A Durello/Durella Lesson:
5The grape name is Durella but wine made from this grape is called Durello. This is due to the fact that the Italian word for grape (uva) is feminine and thus ends in an “a”, while the Italian word for wine (vino) is masculine and thus ends in an “o”.

The name of this very vigorous vine is derived from its tough (dura) skin. Its most important DOC zone lies in the Lessini Mountains in the provinces of Verona and Vicenza, north of the Soave zone. It is grown specifically in mountain sites on soils of volcanic origin.

Lessini Durello is a light dry white wine with a minimum alcohol level of 10%. When it has an alcohol level of 11% it can be labeled “superiore”. This grape’s high acidity makes it ideal for sparkling wine production. Lessini Durello Spumante is rapidly becoming the aperitif of choice in Soave and Verona, where it is served with fairly fatty goods, such as cheese and salami.

The Durella grape can only be found in the wines of this region, and may be used as a lesser components in Breganze Bianco, Gambellara and Lugana.
Lesson Over

 

At around 3 p.m., I have tasted what I want to taste. I go sit in the foyer and read a battered paperback copy of Agatha Christie’s The Clocks. Aldo, the director of the Durello Consorzio comes up and says: “Patricia, you are always reading books that are un po ossidato (a little bit oxidized).

At 4 p.m. I take a 10-minute stroll to the train station and head for home, leaving Michael to hang around for the prize giving.

 

18 November The Week and Beyond….
7 The WeekMy interview with Umberto Eco was cited in The Week Magazine. They used one of my favorite quotes: the one about Dan Brown. Hip, hip, hip hooray.

The set up and Dan Brown quote: Foucault’s Pendulum is about three waggish publishing employees who, having read far too many manuscripts about crazy theories, decide, as a game, to make up a conspiracy theory of their own, in which they link the Knights Templars to practically every occult manifestation in history, and suggest that the Templars are destined to take over the world. The trio soon find themselves in fear of their lives, threatened by a secret society which has taken their game all too seriously.
“It was I who invented Dan Brown, he was a character in that book,” says Eco, laughing.

 

November 12 and 13 Euposia Sparkling Wine tasting

8Beppe G. picks me up at the bridge and whisks me off to The Aqualux Hotel in Bardolino (www.aqualuxhotel.com ) for the annual Euposia mega-tasting of Sparkling Wines from around the world.

 

I am one of 21 judges. Each of us has our own table. There is total silence and the sommeliers are efficient. The wines are tasted blind. (That means that the identity of the wines in the glass are not revealed to the tasters.)

 

Day One we tasted 91 wines. The overall quality level was high. However, I sometimes found myself writing “a bit dull but without faults”.

 

THEN Day Two, the second wine (number 202) was poured. I put my nose in the glass and every atom in my body buzzed. YES! EUREKA! From the first sniff the quality was clear. Fresh, vibrant, fragrant. The palate followed the nose. I put the glass aside and warned the sommeliers not to take it away.

 

I kept it for 2 hours while going through the rest of the wines (there were around 70 for Day Two). Sample 202 stayed firm and fresh and appealing. I wrote “I love this wine.” on my tasting sheet.

 

After some unseemly begging and whining on my part I finally got the organizer to tell me the name of the wine. However, he rightly insisted that he would tell me only after all the tasting sheets had been handed into the invigilator and the results had been put in the computer. It was a Champagne Jacquart Mosatique Brut. Oh, I hope it gets a prize.

 

12 November My Dog Ate It.
9There is a happy ending to this. I took the nibbled note and the nibbler himself to the bank and they gave me a nice new 50 Euro note. And I have learned to put my purse on a higher shelf because I now know that my dear little Stanley can open zipper pockets

November Happy Birthday to Michael
We celebrate at the Osteria Vecchia Fontanina www.ristorantevecchiafontanina.com  The food there is excellent. The service friendly – and they like Stanley.

January 2015

31 January Amarone Anteprima

Elisa's tatto is the Greek word for "to be amazine"
Elisa’s tatto is the Greek word for “to be amazing”

We sat through a mercifully brief (one hour) presentation about the 2011 vintage (this is the one being shown today) and then a series of slides that showed how Amarone is doing in the super market sector in a few countries. This led me- and I am sure many other journalists – to ask ourselves: Is the supermarket sector really the target for fine Amarone? Oh well.

We met up with our pal Alfonso C. and tasted and chatted our way through the two large rooms of stands.

I did not taste every wine. I am still recovering from the cold and – frankly – the thought of plowing through 25 or more highly-alcoholic and (let’s say) zesty (to avoid saying acidic) red wines held little appeal for me.

Here are the highlights:
Amarone Corte Sant’Alda. Marinella Camerani asked me what I thought of the wine. As usual, when I am excited, my hands fluttered and I found myself spontaneously miming the wine. It is a habit that I cannot break – it just happens…

 

“Look you’re dancing. My wine is a tango,” says Marinella.

 

A producer I had not tried before was Marco Secondo. We tried the 2011 and the 2009. Very nice. I will put the producer on my list of winemakers to watch; I want to see how the wines develop. Also the labels had a touch of whimsy (the drawing of a tiny strongman lifting a barbell over his head), which never hurts.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped by old pals: Zanone, Villa Bella,Massimago, Roccolo Grassi, Santa Sofia.
For other old friends whom I did not visit: I’m sorry. And I will try to make it up to you. But you know as well as I do that when you don’t feel well, it is best not to dive into marathon tasting.

 

Michael, Stanley and I meet up with Alfonso and go to the Carroarmato for dinner – and a good time is had by all.

 

30 January Entering into Celestino Gaspari’s head
I, and some 25 Italian wine journalists, arrive at Celestino Gasparai’s Zyme winery for a view of the new structure and a tasting of 7 vintages of Harlequin (1999from 1999 2000, 2001,2003, 2006, 2007, 2008), the first wine to come out under the Zyme name.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIt is a long-lived red wine made blend of 15 grape varieties, some of them white. Those who have brushed up on their Italian wine history will know that white grapes were part of the original “recipe” for Chianti.

 

“I chose to include white grapes because they give a bit of elegance to a wine,” says Celestino. And why did he decide to use 15 different varieties in the blend? Because he didn’t want the wineries he was consulting for to see his wine as being in competition. “I didn’t want to make a wine that already existed – an Amarone, a Bordeaux-blend,” he says.

 

I will spare you acres of tasting notes. However, one of the interesting words that kept recurring when tasters talked about the wine was “carob”. For me the recurring words/phrases were: “ lively on the palate”, balsamic, plumped raisins.

4But let’s talk about the new winery:
Years ago I went to an exhibit of Calder mobiles and stabiles at a Paris museum. As I walked into the brilliantly constructed installation, I felt as if I were walking into the in head of the artist. I had the same sensation as I walked down the wine-red ramp that spiraled into the depths of the winery. With each step I was entering into Celestino’s way of thinking. Unusual angles, sudden views of monumental stone walls, the soft glow of recessed light on a row a barrels, even the gleaming stainless steel pipes became part of this monumental work of art. Designer Moreno Zurlo is more than an architect, with this work he can be considered a portraitist.

 

27 January Voiceless but fine in Verona – Passing notes at Bertani
I am given a splendid tour by Cristiano (the winemaker) and Michela (the PR) at Bertaini. I have to write (or occasionally croak) my questions.

I still cannot speak due to the cold I picked up in London. What a drag. What I miss most about not being able to speak is: 1) not being able to carry on senseless conversations with my dog, and 2) not being able to sing. I just realized that I sing every day when I am fit.

22 January Missing the tasting I look forward to all year
Villa de Winckels (www.villadewinckels.it/ )holds an annual Amarone tasting that is simply fantastic. 50 producers, great opportunities to chat, great grub. But I am still too ill with my cold to attend.

 

16 -20 January Sherlockian Shenanigans in London
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAFriday: We arrive at our pal Michelle’s apartment. (Please note photo of Michelle’s most recent novel and listen to the silent voice saying: buy this book. )

Saturday: Today is the big day: The Holmes Society of London’s annual dinner at the House of Commons. I show Michelle my dress for the event and she thinks it is a tad too austere for the occasion. She roots through her magic closets and comes up with one wonderful dress after another – beaded silk flapper-esque dresses, beaded evening dresses, elegant velvet coats, and on and on. We finally settle on a grey silk suit that Michael says is dynamic. He also says it looks like oriental Armani. I decide it is my Baritsu-gi.

 

7Michael kindly takes me to the House of Commons and waves good bye as I go down the ramp and through Airport-style security. It is a splendid venue: vast echoing halls, ornate ceilings, richly colored frescos and paintings, nice policemen.

We eat in the Members Dining Room. The main speech was given by Russell Merrit and concerned the William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes film, which had recently been uncovered in a Paris archive. For more information on this: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/long-lost-silent-sherlock-holmes-737417

 

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASunday We go to the pub for the Morning After (the dinner) do. Loads of very nice people, decent, rib-sticking grub.

Over tall glasses of London Pride, Guy Marriott, Marcus Geisser and I discuss bringing a band of 60 Sherlockians in Victorian costume to Cremona for a violin recital. Guy suggests that we might throw in a wine tasting while we are at it.

Marcus says to me: We are aiming for 2016 or 2017. Will still be in Verona then?

 

I reply: I never meant to stay in Verona when I moved there 23 years ago. So chances are that I’ll still be there.

 

Here is a link to the only song that I know of that mentions Cremona – Lotsa quail in Cremona. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRdmhvvBc3k

 

We leave to meet Joan. Let me tell you how I came to meet Joan.

 

More than thirty years ago….

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI saw a man strutting through Covent Garden one day and thought: “No one but Tim Curry could walk like that.” So I followed him, trying to get a better look, and he led me to the stage door of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where indeed Tim Curry was playing the swaggering Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance.

 

The show was sold out but I took a place in line next to a Scottish lady named Beth to wait for return tickets. We got the last two tickets and ended up sitting next to each other. During the interval I told her I was thinking of leaving London for Oxford because I thought things might be cheaper there. Money was tight and my choices were: earn or return to New York. Beth pulled out a card, wrote the name of her son’s café in Lisson Grove on it and told me to report there the next day.

 

I arrived in a very businesslike suit. Fortunately Mark, Beth’s son, hired me anyway. My colleagues were Henri and Carlos from Colombia and Joan Walker. Her hair was cropped close to her head, except for a few spiky tufts on top. She usually wore ripped jeans and an old school blazer adorned with band badges. She looked like an English Public Schoolboy gone wrong, which was, I believe, the intention.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy first day Mark put me on the counter to take orders. The Irish navvies who were working on a local building site would come up to my counter and say: “W’wanmulkuhtahwidix.” And I would stand there dumb, until Henri would whisper… “He wants milky tea and eggs, Patricia.” I lasted at the counter for an hour before being demoted to carrying orders to the tables. Joan and I worked from seven until noon. Most days, as soon as work was done we would run to the tube station and head for Leicester Square. There we would join the line at the cheap theater tickets booth. Joan had University degrees in psychology and mathematics and had just graduated from drama school. After each show we would dissect the acting, scenery, costume design, directing and lighting, and, if it were a musical, we would sing snatches of our favorite numbers.

 

Over the ensuing years I would always stop and see Joan when I visited London, and during the times I lived in London, Joan and I haunted the theaters; after every show we had good heart-to-hearts over endless pots of tea – Joan knows every tiny tearoom in Central London. When she acted with the BBC radio rep she would invite me around to the employees’ pub for cheap beer and a “bit of Beeb color, dahling, lovie!” When she made her first appearance on the West End stage, I was there. And I saw her debut at the National Theatre. I returned to the U.K for a weekend to see her singing and dancing and vamping away in Mama Mia! Friends for more than thirty years and all because I found Tim Curry’s strut irresistible!

End of digression….

 

Here’s a link to Tim Curry and his unmistakable sashay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc80tFJpTuo

 

We go to a movie theatre in Leicester square to see Whiplash. I love sitting in a comfortable seat in a warm, dark room, while eating Minstrels and After Eight Mints and drinking ginger tea. The film is good too. Made in 19 days. Here is a trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d_jQycdQGo

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMonday we take in the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the London Museum. My favorite part was the little Reichenbach Falls room. It is a kind of art installation, with video screens reproducing the effects and sounds of the falls. From various corners of the room came a whispered voice reading lines from the Holmes story. Very nice. I wish that the tiny room had a bench in it so that I could just sit there and be lulled by that whispered voice for a while.

 

Tuesday: At the airport we see Marinella Camerani Owner of Corte Sant’Alda (www.cortesantalda.com ), Cesar and their daughter Bianca. They are waiting for the same plane that we are.

 

“Patricia you are so sick,” says Marinella. “You don’t even sound like yourself!” She gives me a throat lozenge and tells us that she was at the Museum of London on Monday doing a tasting with her UK Importer. We tell her that we were there at exactly the same time. “You should have come down. Stefano (Inama) was there too.”

 

In my present feeble condition I realize that as nice as it would have been to see people we know from home…I would have been incapable of drinking anything more taxing than tap water.

18Marinella turns to her daughter: “They had their wedding reception at our house. All the ladies wore hats. I wore a big yellow one.” Here is a photo taken in the mayor of Mezzane’s office at our wedding. Marinella is in the yellow pant suit, Joan is in the red jacket and Annalisa (of the Osteria Carroarmato) is in the white lace blouse.I am in the big hat , Michael is next to me and behind us are Ben (or Joan and Ben) and Illias.  The little mites in white hats beside Marinella are Alda and Federica.

 

I returned home to Verona filled with cold and unable to speak. Every time I have gone to the UK in the last few years I have gotten ill. Am I the canary down the mine? This sorta puts a damper on my Victorian English Time Travel fantasies. If I can’t last 5 days in London 2015, then what are my chances in smoggy foggy 1895?

15 January Hooray for Monica
19My good pal Monica Sommacampagna’s novel has just been published. She is sensitive, intelligent, witty and well read. Buy this book, if you read Italian.

 

 

11 January Chievo Football Supporters Club lunch
We take the bus to the Chievo football supporters’ clubhouse for lunch – spaghetti followed by sausage and beans.

“Look, cowboy food,” says Michael. I have initiated him into the secrets of cowboy life over the years.

 

10 January: Stanley kills the Befana….and is very pleased with himself too!
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy smallish dog stealthily opened a black tote bag, removed a smaller paper bag and delicately extracted the Befana, leaving everything else tidy and intact. He then quietly took her to another room and ripped her to shreds.

I warn people who come to visit us to hang their bags on a doorknob or put them on high shelves because Stanley is a thief. I did not heed my own warning…the fault is mine.

 

 

9 January Donna Leon
21I go to Venice to interview Donna Leon, author of the Guido Brunetti mysteries for Publishers Weekly. We meet in a in a sunny piazza and head for the nearest coffee bar. She reminds me of a bird of prey – those swift, intense looks.

 

I believe she was testing me on my general lit and mystery lit knowledge. Saying things like: “I liked the books written by his wife too.” Patricia, the swot, promptly provided the name Margaret Millar. And “Who was that man who wrote about Charles Paris?” Simon Brett, I supplied. When I pulled the name Per Wahloo out of my brain attic,(the question for this round was: What were the names of that Swedish writing team?) I knew I was on the home stretch. It went on like this until she turned the corner and realized that I was a genuine Reader of Books. Fortunately she also liked my tastes in poets. Whew. And when my husband was able to supply the names of opera singers – I swear, I could see her ticking that off her list and thinking: “Okay these people might be alright.”

 

6 January At the Gepperia
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe go to Geppie and Germana’s for a bang-up lunch made by Germana, with a few things made by Geppie’s mother.
“You are lucky to have a mother who cooks so well,” I say.
“No,” he says. “I am lucky to have been born in Naples.” This means that the food in Naples is better than anywhere else.

The regular gang is there: Auntie Leo and Claudio, Silvio, Steffie and Ugo.

Eleonella (a.k.a. Auntie Leo) brought all the ladies a souvenir of her visit to Naples: a befana. A befana is an old crone with a broom. In these parts she brings presents to children around Christmas time and she is also burnt as a sign of the passing of another year.