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Returning to Italy: Any Suggestions?

“What are you going to write about this month?” asked my sister.

I let out a long sigh, “I haven’t a clue. Maybe I have writer’s block or something? Any ideas?”

She was quiet for a minute. Although my sister Lisa lived hundreds of miles away in Washington D.C., I could picture her deep in thought: phone in hand, lips pursed, eyes slightly squinted.

“Hmmm … what about the time you slapped me in Basilicata?”

I laughed; I should have seen this coming.

“You are never going to let that go, are you?”

“Nope. Never. You slapped me.”

‘We were kids! I can’t even remember why I slapped you. Can you?”

Another pause, and then, “No, actually. Unfortunately, the details are fuzzy. I must have blocked the trauma of it. I just remember that we were sitting by a fountain after dinner, and it was a million degrees. And then you clocked me.”

“Don’t exaggerate; I didn’t “clock” you. And I don’t think it would make a very good story seeing as how neither one of us remembers the details.”

“I remember the important details. And the sting of your palm smacking my cheek.” I bit back a chuckle and tried to focus on moving the conversation away from the slap heard around the peninsula to other potential story topics.

“What if I write about how mom promised us there wouldn’t be any bugs in Italy?”

“But there are bugs in Italy,” Lisa pointed out as she bit into something crunchy, probably an apple. “She lied.”

“She didn’t lie. When she was growing up in Corato they sprayed DDT and so the bugs were few and far between. Actually, Mom remembers that they were regularly told to sleep with their windows closed to prevent inhalation of the evil chemicals during night-time sprayings.”

“That is so creepy, Danielle. Between that and your rock salt consumption, it is a wonder you don’t have a third limb.”

“I know, right?”

“Anyway, that makes for a depressing story. I veto writing about DDT or bugs. What if you write about the time we were in Puglia and you went with mom and dad to Trani, but for some reason I went with Franca to the country. And I played checkers with the blind man.”

“Sounds like a page turner,” I deadpanned.

“Your sarcasm is not appreciated, Danielle.”

“How does one play checkers with a blind man anyway?”

“Hmmm, to be honest, I actually don’t remember how it worked.”  We both laughed. “What if you tell the story about our first trip to Italy? When we played so much GameBoy that we lost our minds?”

I chuckled at the memory. Neither of us spoke much Italian on our first trip to the home land and we ended up playing an absurd amount of Super Mario and Tetris (the only two games we owned) to pass the time during otherwise boring and unintelligible family visits. After a few days of near constant gaming, I started hearing Mario noises at odd moments, when the GameBoy wasn’t switched on or even in the same room. I finally worked up the nerve to confess to Lisa that I was starting to lose it, but she beat me to it and admitted she was suffering from the same exact affliction. Mario was haunting us.

“Oh my gosh. I do remember that! I was so scared to tell you that I was hearing the noises at night and around town. I thought I was schizophrenic. Turns out I was just pathetic. I never even beat Wario.”

“I did. Obviously.”

“Ugh, I appreciate the suggestions, I do, but none of these are quite right.”

“I know,” Lisa agreed, “you need inspiration.”

“Right? I need more adventures.”

“Well, why don’t you go get some?”

“What are you saying? I should go hang out in the North End?”

“No…I’m saying you should go to Italy. When was the last time you were there?

“2005. The time we got stuck on the train.”

“Oh my gosh … you should go! Take a vacation!”

“That is actually a brilliant idea. Where should I go?”

“I don’t know … Napoli? That place is crazy. And you should definitely go see Pina. I mean, obviously.”

“You are a genius!  Thank you!”

“You are welcome.  But I’m no genius.  I can’t even win a game of checkers against a blind man.”

Well, there you have it. I’ve decided to return to the Old Country this autumn and I would LOVE your suggestions on where to go and what to visit. I’m up for anything from museums to ruins, from churches to farms, and beaches to boat-rides. Please leave your ideas below!

About Danielle Festino

Danielle was born and raised in Stoneham, now resides in Medford, and has roots in Puglia. In 2004, she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in International Relations and Italian Studies. She is passionate about telling stories and hopes to provide a glimpse into what it means to grow up Italian-American.

One comment

  1. If you really want to splurge, stay at Palazzo Manfredi if you go to Roma. So lux! They do give you a free breakfast in the morning in their roof top restaurant…all glass, so gorgeous! We also stayed in a tiny town in Tuscany, called Figline and it was lovely. So jealous you’re going back!