Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christmas Eve to Capodanno

Everyone who moves to Italy has to make a decision about what type of life they want to build--maybe not always consciously--but eventually they decide if they are going to live like Italians, try to become Italians, be "expats", or remain perpetual tourists. Sometimes these decisions are taken to extremes, such as preferring one group of friends over another based on nationality, as in "I don't want any more expat friends, or the less menacing "I didn't come here to meet more________"---fill in the blank depending on which country they came from and subsequently developed an aversion to their own countrymen. For these people Italian friends can do comparatively no wrong. You can imagine the charming statements at the other end of the spectrum. 

For us, any brave soul who wants to be our friend is judged based on friend qualities (i.e. actually like us), not national origin. This year it wasn't so easy just being up for everything because 1) try as we might, we are not nor ever will be party animals or entertainment divas, 2) we are meeting more nice people and therefore don't get our required quiet time by default, 3) we both have unfortunate diet requirements that make it awkward to accept all invitations, 4) neither one of us loves food or cooking (we know, Italy and all)...

Photo by Anne
Please don't take from this that we are trying to do a Facebook on you. No, we are not the most popular people on the planet rushing from one event to the next with a rose in our teeth...but we did have a very nice holiday season this year and we'd like to share it just in case you are interested in how you may end up living if you are a shy book-wormy type who happened to love living in Italy anyway.

We started the holiday week lunching Monday with British friends who took this great picture of us, despite our whining about all the picture-taking going on. Americans and Brits do seem to love their pictures of events.

Christmas dinner was with the same friends, plus four Norwegian folks who have a holiday home in the historic district of Scalea. The table held 6 Brits, 4 Norwegians and us 2 Americans. A friendly group – we had numerous really good dishes of Indian curry instead of a turkey.

Clive, our entertaining host and talented chef, was behind the camera. We have learned about an English tradition for Christmas dinner. Those things that look like gifts on the table are “crackers”. Each person pulls with each hand on one whilst your table partners on either side also pull. The result is a pop from a small gunpowder cap and little surprises fall out. Each cracker also contains a paper crown – hence, the head ornaments you see. Doug expected he looked like someone from a nursing home, so he didn’t stay under the hat long.

The next event was the day after Christmas. Boxing Day in England. Festa di Santo Stefano in Italy. Also Doug’s birthday. Lui ha 63 anni. This year we went to a restaurant new to us – La Perla del Tirreno. Literally the pearl of the Tyrrhenian.

Photo by Federica of La Perla with staging by Clive

We 8 expats were the only ones there on a very blustery day at the beach with rain blowing horizontally. It turned out to be a great restaurant. Clive, our chef from the day before, believes it is surely one of the best restaurants in Scalea. Originally opened as a seafood place, they now cater to fish people, meat people and vegetarians alike. 

With no advance warning, they put together this torta (cake) made with a custard and fruit. It has been decades since Doug blew candles out!
Photo by Clive

We were invited to join Italian neighbors for New Year’s Eve (capodanno) in the mountain village of Orsomarso nearby. This is called the “cenone”, the big dinner. It was one of those dinner parties, similar to a wedding,  with music that includes toasts at midnight with dancing, dancing, dancing. 

In the US and the UK, New Years is too often a big night of drinking too much. Not here. Italians would much rather eat some good food. You’ll note the bottles on each table are Coke, water and one red wine (which we hardly touched)--plus a bottle of spumonte opened right at midnight. 

Between each course of food there was karoke singing and dancing. There were kids from 2 months old on up and the 7 year old at our table was matching all the dance steps of the adults on the floor! Calabrian kids learn – literally from the cradle - how to stay up late and enjoy themselves. 

We tried to do this circle dance too but fortunately that meant the camera was out of commission. By the way, not very many people here were taking pictures. Interesting...

We left soon after midnight because we are wimps. Doug could barely speak given hoarseness from speaking and singing over the loud music and 150 other people. Returning to Santa Domenica Talao, there were still a few dozen people visiting in the piazza and the fireworks fired by boys (and bigger bursts fired by their fathers) lasted until past 2 in the AM.

Happy 2014 Tutti
Diana e Guido or
Di and Doug


  1. It was just as much of a surprise that you had never heard of crackers as it was for you to discover them it seems!

    Tanti auguri di buon anno.

    John e Toni

  2. Sì, al punto! Buon anno anche a voi!

  3. That sounds like a nice Christmas and New Year Eve. I think it must be fun to be around people who seem to love life. We are usually home on New Years Eve because we also are "booky." The days of large celebrating are long over for us. We do like to lie in bed, though, at midnight and listen for the neighbors shooting a shotgun at the very moment the clock strikes 12. They are at least a half mile away from us here in the country.
    This year seeing the fireworks in Sydney and London made me a little wistful, though. Maybe someday we will be there, too.

  4. Caterina,
    It's always fun to look forward to a dream, large or small while savoring the every day. Sounds like you are good at both.



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