My Heat Goes Out To Italy

by Nicole Mangina on April 7, 2009

By now you have probably heard or read about the earthquake in L’Aquilla, Italy this week.  The pictures are devastating.  My father lived in L’Aquilla for 5 years and I have been there many many times.  It was always one of my favorite places to go.  I love the insanity of Rome, but L’Aquilla was what true Italian life is all about.  In the morning the market thrived in Centro where you could buy absolutely anything.  In the afternoon and late into the night it rang with the sounds of laughter with the kids playing soccer and the murmurs of adorable old men in their jackets and hats chatting on the benches.  I have so many memories of being there.  Here are some of my favorites:

~ Going for long walks in the country just outside of town with my sister.  We traveled to Italy twice, just the two of us and it was great.  We live 10 minutes apart from each other and yet, even with the best of intentions we don’t get to see each other as much as either of us would like and even when we do, we are usually fitting it in between getting other things done.  In Italy we would talk for hours and just catch up on really where we were at in our lives.  Sometimes they would be really big important conversations and sometimes we would just laugh and be silly, but either way, that time meant the world to me.
~ I am a true Daddy’s girl so spending time there with my dad was great.  He is Italian through and through.   It was wonderful to see him in his element.  We too got to spend some wonderful time together just being.  A 15 minute conversation with my dad does not reveal much, but if  you have a chance to just spend time with him you come to see how truly amazing he is and I am grateful for being able to do that in Italy.  We would walk the streets and stop in to a café for a drink then head out to dinner and a gellato afterwards.  It was great.
~ L’Aquilla is where I first learned to add some Sambuca to my espresso and where my Dad introduced Gary to Grappa and Cent Herb.  How else was he going to know if his potential son in law was man enough to handle his daughter?   By the way Grappa in the right setting might be tolerable but I caution you to stay away from Cent Herb at all costs if it is ever offered to you.
~ I remember always going to Rosella’s to buy shoes and laughing at what a small world it is because we all have family in Cleveland, Ohio.  I still have some of my sexy boots that I bought there and will probably have them forever.
~ The first time Gary ever used a passport was to go to L’Aquilla with me and it was the first time he ever had ‘real’ lasagna.  He was really nervous about being in a foreign country, but when we walked into the Bar Cavour and they played the entire River album by Bruce Springsteen he knew that we would love it.
~ I have great memories of warm summer evenings spent eating gellato (nutella, straciatella and pistachio are my favorites) and walking around Centro.
~ I remember a night when I was there with my sister and my Dad has some business colleagues in town from New York.   They were super nice guys.  We all went out to dinner and ended up at some bar afterwards doing Jager shots.  Not sure how that happened, but it was fun!
~ L’Aquilla is known as the city of 99 churches and they are beautiful.  Speaking of beauty I remember walking the streets there many times and finding the most incredibly, seemingly every day things.  Beautiful window boxes with trailing red geraniums over flowing and beautiful little paintings on the sides of buildings.
~ I loved walking through the Collemagio, an old fortress where scenes from the movie Ladyhawk were filmed.  (an old movie with Matthew Broaderick in it.)
~ Gary and I bought a beautiful drawing of L’Aquilla while we were there once that shows the whole city and has a gorgeous frame, the kind that you really can’t find here.  It hangs in our home today and it makes me smile ever time I walk by.  The funny thing is that we bought it fully framed, with the glass, right after 9-11 and then brought it back on the airplane!  First of all the thing was insanely heavy to be lugging through the airport but second of all we could not believe that they actually let us on the airplane with a giant sheet of glass.  Craziness!  Oh well, it just adds to the story now which makes it even more meaningful.

My heart aches for all of the families that have been displaced and lost everything and for the beauty that was destroyed.  I am grateful to have been there, though, and for the wonderful memories that I have.

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