March 1, 1878 to March 1, 2015

This is an updated version that some of you might have read before.  Most everyday, I remember the ancestors that enabled me to be able to ‘live the dream of Italy’ full time. On my grandfather’s birthday, I like to remind others of him and all the folks, who either by choice or not, immigrated to America and helped to make it into a strong country.  If you are interested in more than my story I urge you to watch the series on PBS  While I don’t think that my grandparents had the same type of experience that happened in big American cities I think they had some of those experiences.

Sunday, March 1, 2015 is the anniversary of my grandfather (nonno), Antonio Iaccarino’s birth. He was born in mille otto cento settantotto or 1878 so he would be 137 years old. His parents were Ferdinando and Maria D’Esposito Iaccarino. Besides my grandfather, I know they also had 2 daughters, one, Concetta, (my Zia or aunt) who was 4 years younger than my nonno and another that I never met, Josephine who lived in Connecticut.

In 2003 I began researching my grandparents’ lives so that I could apply to become an Italian citizen. In the process of this research I have learned some things which have brought me closer to my nonno who I never met. He died before I was born. I always think of him when I hear the Simon and Garfunkle song that starts “I left my home and my family when I was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers…” My nonno was only 12 when he joined the merchant marines (Marina Mercantile Italiana). Whether he joined willing or unwilling I don’t know. I do know that at that time he and his family were living in a room or rooms in this house in Meta, Italy.


I have found this house because very dear friends, Tonino and Carmella Romano spent hours researching old town zoning records. It seems as if the town fathers in Meta like to rename and renumber streets all the time.  Only the Romano’s  tenacity helped me to find this place.

So my nonno went to sea. He signed on as a mozzo (a cabin boy). Fortunately, his seaman’s book is still in our family. The entries are handwritten in script that I can’t always read and understand. (Someday perhaps…) So far, I know he was promoted, learned great skills that he would use later in life and four languages besides his native Italian. From the log I can tell that he returned to and left Italy a good bit. Stamps in his book show that some of the places he went to were Greece, Liverpool, England, Marseille, France, and Odessa, on the Black Sea. Can you imagine sending off your 12 year old son and for the next 19 years only seeing him periodically? And he comes back with stories of places he has been to and things he has seen. This is the view leaving the port of Naples that I am guessing is relatively unchanged even today.


He did not always leave from Naples. Meta, the town south of Naples, where he lived was at the time a fairly large port and had a ship building facility. Today it is not. It is a small town with a nice sandy beach and a bedroom community for surrounding towns like Sorrento.


Even though Sorrento and Positano have been popular tourist destinations since the late 1800s prosperity did not arrive until after World War II. Before that, a large number of people of all age groups emigrated from the area to the United States and South America. But our family name, a very common one still remains in the area.

From my nonno I think I have inherited my interest in other languages besides my native tongue. I do hold it against him that he did not allow Italian to be spoken in their house in America. My cousins have told me that he would scold my grandmother (nonna) if he caught her chatting with her friends in Italian (after they moved to America). He would say “We are Americans now, we will speak American”. (Italian men do so love to declare, dictate and proclaim, don’t they?) So my father never really spoke Italian. He never passed that on to me.

I also know, that from my nonno, the spirit of travel and adventure passed directly to my father and then to me. My passport is never locked up in a safety deposit box. I like to have it near me so if the opportunity to travel arises I can just go. And I have a very cooperative and loving husband. After I finally got my Italian citizenship he didn’t mind when I packed us up and moved us to Italy.

So little by little with research, the help of friends and the memories of my family I learn about my grandparents. On Sunday or when ever you think about it, please raise a glass of wine or a mug of coffee to my nonno and nonna who had the spirit and sense of adventure to try something different and create a new life for themselves. Most Americans have ancestors that emigrated. I have been lucky enough to be able to trace mine and fill in some of the blanks. If you have any interest in your own background you should try it.  You learn about the past and look what it led to for us.


Buon Compleanno Nonno!  And thank you from all of my heart!

Lunching Again

This time we were alone.  Ben had a late afternoon appointment in Sansepolcro, about an hour from our house.  Frequent readers know that the women’s college that I graduated from, Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, has a permanent study abroad program based in Sansepolcro.  So normally when we go there we stop in and enjoy lunch at ‘my college’.  So far this year, I have not seen any activity for this semester and sometimes they don’t have enough students signing up, so the program doesn’t happen.  (FOOLS!) 

Anyway, Ben pointed out that we could finally eat at the Chinese restaurant that we had walked past many times.  So off we went.

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Hot and sour soup.  A disappointment.

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Steamed dumplings.  Hmmmm excellent.  Let me qualify that, these are most probably made off site, bought frozen and then microwaved to thaw before steaming.  No special sauce was served with them.  So by Hong Kong standards these were so bad but for here, pretty durn good.

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Our other dishes, I got carried away eating and forgot to take pictures, but there was a fried chicken bits, a seafood platter and mixed veg platter.  Most dishes are 3 to 6 Euros a dish.  Tasty, excellent by Italian standards. 

We will go back.

Ristorante Cinese Shanghai

Via San Puccio 29

Sansepolcro (AR)

0575 736560

I’m surrounded

Guest Post: By Nerone, the dog

Yes, indeed, Richard’s chickens are back for another visit.  And those ones that live near the big house come marchin’ down the drive every afternoon like they are comin’ to the land of milk and honey.  You know one of them saw She comin’ out the house with a big bowl of steamin’ rice for Richard’s chicks (why do they get a hot cooked meal?) and now they think She is gonna be servin’ them somethin’ like that?   Yeah, right, in your dreams. 

Anyway, She has to get all riled up about fixin a piece of furniture.  Puttin stuff in boxes, and laying down paper and paintin and stuff. 

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This is what it looked like before She started paintin’.  Movin’ all this stuff around, that disturbs my chi you know.  I’m very sensitive to things like that. 

Finally, She got finished and put everything back together.  She made doors for the boxes and what do you think She painted on them?  CHICKENS!!!!!!!  What’s wrong with a nice friendly dog face?  Really!

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She told me that one in the lower left is called “Grand Dad’s Funeral, Look We Had Him Roasted”  Then it took her a whole other day to get everything unpacked and all.

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Anyway, She is all happy that it looks organized.  And then She got another bed to replace the one that was here. 

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And I’m thinkin that it is gonna be a nice comfy spot for me to lounge but there are all these chick pillows up on it.  And finally, Richard, you know sometimes I don’t think he is a good dog boy, anyways, he brings her some picture of his home place in Ireland with chickens in it so she has to hang all these chick pictures on the wall.

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Man, I just hate it when she gets on these benders of doin’ things.  Everything goes to hell in a handbasket exceptin’ the project She wants to work on.  Do you know my dinner was LATE, two night in a row!!!!!!

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Ohhh, sometimes it’s just so hard to be a dawg!  




The spider is still around

I spotted this web one morning as we were leaving

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Very busy that spider was, but were there any bugs to catch?


Shall we lunch?

In the winter it really takes a lot to get me to agree to go out of the house after dark.  I don’t like wearing a coat, hat, gloves, trying to move in them, drive in them, and all.  So the idea of going for lunch on a sunny day is quite appealing. 

Our friends Dinah and Allen had been the week before with Grace and others to AKA TAIYOO in Arezzo.  We could not go because we were waiting for the plumber.  (what we did for the better part of January)  Dinah and Allen enjoyed it so much they were ready to go back.  So off we went.

As you might guess it is Japanese.

The set lunch, which I had, starts with a bento box

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which included miso soup, a salad, rice and a piece of grilled tuna.  Now, I don’t eat much fish or seafood but this is one of the best pieces of grilled tuna I have ever had.  Really good.  Poor Ben, he knows that he can usually count on me passing over a large portion of any fish I encounter but not this time.  (the sauce in the shell dish is to die for)

This was followed by

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what I had selected which was Katsudon, a thin pork cutlet which is breaded and fried.  I have made this at home for a number of years but have never eaten it at a restaurant.  So I was pleased to try it and it was really good too.  All this was 10 Euros.  A very good price.  There are about 6 other choices on the set lunch menu, all of which include the bento box and whatever ‘main course’ you pick for 10 to 12 Euros.  Very good value for the money. 

Others had bait, or you might call it sushi, said to be very good too. 

All in all a wonderful lunch and some place we will be happy to go back to.

AKA TAIYOO Nippon Restaurant

Via Alessandro dal Borro 32

52100 Arezzo

Phone 0575 27780

The reindeer continue their tour

The reindeer have moved on from Paris to Holland

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I had so much fun with the reindeer during the holidays that I decided to let them start traveling around using many of the ‘trinkets’ that we have picked up in our travels.  And it is a good way to cover up the ugly stuffa that sits right inside our front door and is the first thing that anyone sees when they come in.  The stuffa is left over from the previous tenant and I can’t get it moved by myself and really should not have to since the previous tenant should have disposed of it if she didn’t want it.  It does offer a measure of protection for the door that it sits in front of and blocks the chilled air from coming in, so it isn’t too bad to have it there.  And now that the reindeer are using it, all the more exciting. 

It is also a way for me to have and enjoy fresh flowers.  I really like them but can’t have them in our apartment because of the pollen.  And since the space is not heated the flowers last a long time and bring a bit of color to our day.  And of course there is always the excitement of what will she wear next?

What are the reindeer up to now?

When last we saw the reindeer they were celebrating the holidays in Florence.  They seemed to have moved on the Paris.

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I’m sure she thinks she looks good in that hat….


Celebrating New Years

I have not over looked Christmas.  We had a wonderful lunch at our friends’ house, Grace and Gian Carlo.  It was a multicourse affair featuring home made ravioli.  All very tasty.  Unfortunately I was in one room and my camera in another.  So no pictures.  Trust me, it was memorable. 

For New Year’s Eve we were at Dinah and Allen’s house in Lucignano.  They have a large, well suited for entertaining space and they enjoy giving a party.  The food was catered by the restaurant next door, Il Gochino. 

A number of folks who follow this blog enjoy seeing the food pictures so here they are. 

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Numbers in the pictures below correspond to the numbers on this list.

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5.Pecorino Bavarian with fava beans, sort of a light room temperature cheese mousse  Very tasty!

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4. I can’t read the description, but it was a light shrimp mousse wrapped in a light noodle


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3. Salmon crème brulee

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9. Broccoli with a saffron eggy/souffle bite. 

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8. Cured meat with a little cone of chopped fruit.  Very Tasty.


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10 The chef’s presentation of a traditional Tuscan dish, pinzimonio, a seasoned olive oil with raw vegetables.  Very tasty too.

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6. Brioche and foie gras with an onion compote

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2. Scallops with a potato puree and pistachios


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1. Scallops with avocado. 

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7  Traditional Tuscan New Years dish, lentils and pork

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The countertop was wearing its yule log.

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It was a dress up occasion, stylish foot wear was worn.

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Even the renaissance reindeer were wearing bells. 

It was a lovely evening, topped off with a fireworks viewing on the terrace of the whole valley welcoming in 2015.  Thanks for including us. 

My Madeline

Our friends, Grace and Gian Carlo had a large number of us over for Christmas lunch.  A wonderful multicourse/many hour long affair.  My camera was in one place and I was in another so no shots of all the wonderful food including the home made ravioli.  Sorry.  There were multiple deserts including a cookie plate.  On the cookie plate were what call ‘Springlees’. 

Growing up, many times during the year, but especially at Christmas, my father would stop at an Italian bakery Ruschiellos (maybe?) and bring things home.  At Christmas, my father, lover of all things licorice would bring home these anise flavored cookies. 

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The minute I saw them on the platter, tears came to my eyes.  Here were the cookies that I had eaten every Christmas of my childhood and they tasted exactly the same!  It was just so wonderful to have one again and be reminded of my father.  Truly, it was one of the moments that made the holiday special.  Thanks Grace.

If you want to read more about them here is the wikipedia reference about them.


The major ingredients of Springerle are eggs, white (wheat) flour, and very fine or powdered sugar. The biscuits are traditionally anise-flavored, although the anise is not usually mixed into the dough; instead it is dusted onto the baking sheets so that the biscuit sits on top of the crushed anise seeds.

Traditional Springerle recipes use hartshorn salt (ammonium carbonate, or baker’s ammonia) as a leavening agent. Since hartshorn salt can be difficult to find, many modern recipes use baking powder as the leavening agent. Springerle made with hartshorn salt are lighter and softer than those made with baking powder. The hartshorn salt also imparts a crisper design and longer shelf-life to the Springerle. To make Springerle, very cold, stiff dough is rolled thin and pressed into a mold, or impressed by a specialized, carved rolling pin. The dough is unmolded and then left to dry for about 24 hours before being baked at a low temperature on greased, anise-dusted baking sheets.

The leavening causes the biscuit to at least double in height during baking. This "pop-up" effect may be the source of the name in German, and produces the characteristic "foot" along the edges, below the molded surface.

The baked biscuits are hard, and are packed away to ripen for two or three weeks. During this time, they become tender.

Another method of making Springerle is to not chill the dough at all. Commonly, after mixing all the ingredients together, one would cover a surface with flour, and use a regular rolling pin (also covered in flour) to roll out the dough to about half-an-inch of thickness. Flour would be spread over the top surface of the rolled-out dough, and also on the specialized Springerle rolling pin. One would whack the Springerle rolling pin against one’s hand a few times, to dislodge any flour caked into the designs on it, and then proceed to carefully but firmly roll out the molds. One uses a knife to cut out the small, rectangular cookies (often 2×1 inches), and place them on a wooden board to dry overnight (or for at least twelve hours). As this process is repeated, the dough gets more brittle due to the added flour and doesn’t hold the molds as well. Therefore, it is important to roll the dough out in small batches (instead of all at once), to keep the moisture in so the cookies hold together. Anise seed is sprinkled on the baking sheets just before putting them in the oven (about ten minutes is usually sufficient, but the cooking time also depends on thickness). 1-2 teaspoons of anise extract can also be added to the dough to increase the taste (which is rather like licorice), and the amount of cookies varies on the thickness. The usual recipe with 4 eggs and 3-4 cups of flour can yield anywhere from 60-144 cookies, depending on thickness and the experience of the maker.

Town Hall in Monte San Savino

In early December right before we left to go to Nice I received on 2 separate days, 2 pieces of mail about trash.  One was a bill for 2014, even though I had already paid the 2014 bill and the other was a note saying that I had overpaid for 2013 and that a large refund was waiting for me.  Naturally, I was confused.  One piece of mail wanted money and one piece of mail said they owed me money.  I turned to our good friend John, who knows about real estate, property, taxes, all kinds of things like that for help.  He and an Italian friend reviewed the letters and were as puzzled as I was.  John offered to go with me to the  Monte San Savino town hall to figure it out. 


On December 30, (the bill being due on December 31) I met him at town hall and we chatted with the nice lady in charge of billing/finance.  The bill I received was essentially an adjustment of rates for 2014.  This is what I understood, that at the beginning of 2014 they didn’t really know the rate that should be charged (being part of the larger European Union has something to do with this rather than being inept) so they made a best guess and sent out bills.  Now that 2014 was ending they had a firm idea of what the rate should be so another bill was sent to make up the difference between the two.  Okay, I accepted that.  But why was I the only one amongst our circle of friends in Monte San Savino who got another bill?    

Well, it seems that the company that handles billing (not this nice lady) uses a delivery service in conjunction with the post office or maybe on their own.  And that the delivery service is not the best.   Now, here’s the good part.  The nice lady says it is still the responsibility of every home owner whether they receive the bill or not to pay it.  Now, my friend John, is very diplomatic, very calm.  He took a step back and then projected himself forward (like he was gonna throw a punch)  and in Italian more or less said “WHAT!!!!!! You mean if I don’t get any notice I still have to pay something I have no idea about????”  Of course I was giggling, because the exasperation and expression on his face was priceless.   And I am sure that he meant the (for him) over the top reaction to be comic.  And the nice lady is giggling and then John laughs.  And she says well, of course  that is the law but… and there is a hand waggle meaning ‘we don’t worry too much’. 

So now we have it settled and I know what I need to do.  Pay the bill and scoot down to the bank (which conveniently happens to be our bank) and pick up my refund check which is waiting there for me.  John and I did not even discuss the refund with the nice lady, we just say our goodbyes and leave.  I drive back down to the ‘suburban’ post office to pay the bill because the nice lady can not accept my money for the bill.  Nooooo I have to go to the post office or a bank to pay the bill.  So I pay the bill at the post office, walk next door to my bank, present the letter, ask for my refund.  Nope!  It has been over 2 weeks since the refund was offered, so they have cut a check and sent it back up to town hall.  So I drive back to town hall.  Back to the same lady.  Show her my letter, she gives me the check.  We have another laugh about my confusion over receiving a bill and a refund and I am off. 

On the way out I notice that the official meeting room is open so I peeked in to take a few pictures.  I am sure there are some  local government meeting rooms in the US that are this nice, maybe? 



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A week or so later, John discovers his bill that has been sitting outside his gate, in the weather, under a rock.  So he paid it too. 

I think that anywhere in the world, being an expat is not all that bad as long as the home town folks that you interact with are willing to be patient and understanding and as long as the expat does not go off on a long lecture/rant about how confusing and inefficient some process is.  Smiling and sharing a laugh helps too. 


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