Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

Getting into the Christmas spirit …

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… is really difficult when you’re out in traffic.

 

— Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 19, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Posted in A Musing

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The Day Santa Died

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                         By Cecil Scaglione

                                                   Mature Life Features

  ‘Twas the day before Christmas. 

  We got to the butcher and picked up our gallantine for Christmas Eve and lasagna for Christmas dinner. Gallantine is a tradition here. A chicken is de-boned and stuffed with everything from prosciutto to pistachios and hard-boiled eggs to eggplant, then pressed and cooked, sliced and eaten cold. Got chores done while we were out – cash from the bank ATM, started the car, and checked out our last-minute grocery list — as a humid sirocco-like wind swooped in and made the town almost summery. Lou dropped by for a grappa and headed home for a shower. Riccardo dropped by about midday and said he’d skip tonight because he won’t be able to find a parking space because of midnight Mass at the church.

  Then he told us. “Bobbie died,” he said

  Bobbie was ambushed by a deadly heart attack on his early-morning walk with his dog. He had been looking forward to playing Santa: “A true Santa Claus from the North,” he told me several days earlier. He was proud of the fact that he was the first non-native offered the role.  He even let his beard grow to match his thick head of white hair. He had been a technical-magazine editor in Sweden before chucking it and moving to Panicale, where he augmented whatever pension and other funds he had by managing rental properties, organizing travel tours, and dabbling in real estate.

  I skidded down to the piazza to scout out the facts. Lou was right behind me. We ran into Simone’s wife (Aldo’s daughter-in-law who owns and works with her husband at the osteria they opened in the apartment Bev and I rented on our first trip). Lou got our foto and she told us “Babbo Natale e morta.” I asked if they found an alternate. She nodded her head: “Qualqu’ uno” (somebody).

  I asked if her osteria’s Christmas Eve dinner (30 euros per person) was full. She shook her head “no,” and explained they didn’t start planning/advertising early enough. I said they’ll start earlier next year. She nodded “si.”

  Then she added that Santa was due to land in the piazza at 3:30 p.m. We returned to the apartment and sipped a few until it was time to check the piazza. It was still warm and humid but it started to drizzle on the couple of dozen kids and their parents scattered around the 550-year-old fountain. So they trooped into below-street-level club room across the alley from the osteria. Guillermo said the club room was made available after it started to rain. Santa and his jingling bells were greeted about 4:20 by applauding parents and wide-eyed youngsters. Everyone got something. Even the  adults — each received a little package of candy that was handed out by the children.

  But no one seemed to miss Bobbie.

  (A few days later, a hearse squeezed up through the steep archway and a clutch of mourners  followed the casket into the church for Mass. When the service ended and the remains rolled back into the vehicle, no one followed but everyone applauded Bobbie’s passing as the long car slipped down into the piazza and out the Umberto 1 gate.)

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2011

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 20, 2011 at 12:05 am

Rome Gets Ready

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By Cecil Scaglione

 

Mature Life Features 

  A Christmas carnival in Piazza Navona is just that – a carnival, complete with carousel, carney games (“A Win Every Time”), knick-knack booths, balloons dancing with the wind, hot and cold food, classes of kids corralled by clusters of nuns, litters of tourists marshaled around by guys and gals waving them on with numbered signs, and dueling guitarists. All this counterpointing the ageless statues and churches that give substance to this celebrated canyon a couple of blocks from the Pantheon in The Eternal City.

  I quickly snagged a cimballi calde (hot doughnut) to hold me until lunch. A cimballi is a Roman doughnut about the size of a small pizza and can be eaten plain, sprinkled with sugar or covered with Nutella (a chocolate-hazelnut butter spread popular here). I hadn’t had one since one of the officers aboard our freighter cooked a batch one morning. The dough is much tastier than the U.S. donut, it’s deep-fried but as flat as a pizza, has a less fatty texture and doesn’t curl up into gut-busting balls to play havoc with your digestive processes and system.

  We went to Rome after the high season opened Dec. 8. It closes Jan. 6. Both days are national holidays here. The first is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception; the closing date is Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas in many quarters.

  For our first stop, we arrived at my favorite optometric shop on Via Nazionale just as the owner was unlocking his exterior display boxes and I bought a couple of pairs of sunglasses. They’re about one-fifth the price of expensive ones sold under such American trade names as RayBan,Foster Grant, etc., which are made by these same Italians. Bev got an eyeglass frame to take home.

  After strolling into and by the ritzy boutiques stretching from the Spanish steps to the Trevi Fountain — and picking up a gelato across from the fountain at one of the finest gelateria in the universe – we went into the Pantheon for the first time. It’s now a basilica with Mass offered every Saturday and Sunday, although it’s closed Christmas Day. The sun was bouncing off Roman roofs so we didn’t have to worry about rain falling in through the hole in the massive copula that also lets light pour into the building, the only one to survive two millennia in its entirety since Roman times.

  After lunch at my favorite eating spot – Melo’s, a Sicilian ristorante on the steps leading down from the bottom of Via Nazionale to il Vittoriano and the Forum – we decided to take an earlier train back home instead of hanging around into the evening. We were tired.

  The sun was rising as our train pulled out of Chiusi and it was setting as we rolled out of Roma Termini.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2010

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 16, 2011 at 12:05 am

Regarding these early Christmas tunes…

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… I love the music, but I can’t get a Handel on them.

— Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

November 20, 2011 at 12:09 am

Posted in A Musing

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Befuddled and Bewildered By Befana

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The church bulletin said Befana would arrive at 13:30 Tuesday in the catechism-class building up from the church. I saw Christmas stockings and assorted images, from Cabbage-patch like copies to hand-carved and twisted crones to Smile happy faces of la buona strega Befana (The good witch Befana) displayed for sale leading up to the Epiphany – Jan. 6 and also known as Little Christmas in our part of the world.

I got to the hall about 30 minutes early, right after Don Bruno and his team of teens got there to set up the small hall.

I asked an early arrival if Befana would be on stage doling out goodies to the kids. She nodded and told me Don Bruno was taking care of things. Tables were moved around, chairs were hustled into the room, boxes of assorted children’s goodies and gifts were emptied — hold on, some prizes included wine and umbrellas. So I clicked some photos as the hall filed with a couple of dozen people, most of the older women. And they began playing Tambolo, the church version of Bingo.

I wandered down to Masolino’s and checked in with Stefania and she was confused about my confusion. “Pensavo andavo a vedere Befana” (I thought I was going to see Befana)

I showed her the little note about her making an appearance at that place at that time and the light dawned. She explained that the “arrival” of Befana was the little gifts of goodies handed out by the priest as special prizes to the youngsters as he called out the Tambolo numbers – from one to 90.

We give everybody gifts at Christmas “ma solo i bambini a Epifania.”

The legend of Befana, briefly, is that she turned away the magi looking for the baby Jesus and, having second thoughts about her error, runs around on the Epiphany and delivers sweets to young children hoping to redeem herself should she find the right child.

“It’s all over – the holidays – on the Epiphany,” Stefania said.

She’s right. We’re heading to  Bologna for a handful of days – plan side trips to Ravenna, Parma and, perhaps, Rimini or Padua or Modena — before heading home next Wednesday.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 6, 2010 at 7:42 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Spello Still Spellinding

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Even on a rainy wintry day, “Spello is still a pretty town,” said Jean. And it’s easier to get around since it isn’t packed with tourists. We climbed up to a shop that features – what else? – olive wood products. She bought a rosary, similar to the one I had blessed by a couple of old friends – retired monsignors – last fall in a visit/reunion in our Northern Ontario home town.

When we got back to the village, we bumped into the tail end of Bobbie’s funeral, the man who died Christmas Eve morning  just hours before he was to play Santa Claus/Babbo Natale for the children. As the white hearse drifted away from the front of the church below our window, the crowd applauded as Bobbie exited left life’s earthly stage. The more cynical onlookers had their own explanation for the hand-clapping.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 29, 2009 at 6:06 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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The Day Santa Died

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It was Christmas Eve. We got to the butcher and picked up our gallantina for Christmas Eve and lasagna for Christmas dinner. Gallantina is a local tradition – a chicken is de-boned and stuffed with everything from prosciutto to pistascios and hard-boiled eggs to eggplant and then pressed and cooked, sliced and eaten cold. Got chores done in way home – bank ATM, started the car, checked out last-minute grocery list as a warm sirocco-like but  humid wind moved in and made the town almost summery.  Lou dropped by for a grappa and headed home for a shower. Riccardo dropped by and said he’d skip tonight because he won’t be able to find a parking space because of midnight mass at the church. Then we found out. “Bobbie died,” he said

Bobbie Natale, the true Santa from Sweden, died while walking his dog this morning. Santa died. The whole world had to be told. Headed down to the piazza with Lou following to scout out the facts. We ran into Simone’s wife and Lou got our foto and she told us “Babbo Natale e morta.” I asked if they found an alternate and she nodded her head and said, “Qualqu’ uno” (somebody).

I asked if her osteria’s Christmas Eve dinner (E30) was full and she said no, they didn’t start planning/advertising early enough. I said they’ll start earlier next year and she nodded yes.

Then she said Santa was due to land on the piazza at 3:30 so we came back to the apartment and sipped a few until it was time to return to the piazza. It was still warm and humid. And it started to drizzle on the dozen or so kids and their parents in the piazza. So the small trope moved into club rooms below the street level across the alley from the osteria. Guillermo said the club room was made available after it started to rain. Santa and his jingling sled were greeted about 4:20 by applauding parents and wide-eyed children. And everyone got something. Even adults received little packages of candy from each of the kids.

But no one seemed to miss Bobbie.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 25, 2009 at 5:13 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Rome’s Ready

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 A Christmas carnival in Piazza Navone is just that – a carnival, complete with carousel, carney games (“A Win Every Time”), knick-knack booths, balloons dancing with the wind, and hot and cold food, classes of kids marshaled around by nuns, litters of tourists marshaled around by a guys and gals waving them on with numbered signs, and dueling guitarists. All this counterpointing the ageless statues and churches that form the walls of this canyon in The Eternal City.

I quickly snagged a cimballi calde (hot doughnut) to hold me until lunch. A cimballi is a Roman doughnut about the size of a small pizza and can be eaten plain, sprinkled with sugar or covered with nutella (a chocolate-hazelnut butter spread popular here). I hadn’t had one since one of the officers aboard our freighter cooked a batch one morning. The dough is much tastier than the U.S. donut, it’s deep-fried but as flat as a pizza, has a less fatty texture and doesn’t curl up into gut-busting balls to play havoc with your digestive processes and system.

We went to Rome the day after the high season opened Dec. 8. It closes Jan. 6. Both days are national holidays here. The first is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception; the closing date is Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas in most quarters.

For our first stop, we arrived at my favorite optometric shop on Via Nazionale just as the owner was unlocking  his exterior display boxes and I bought a couple of pairs of sunglasses. They’re about one-fifth the price of expensive sold under such American trade names as RayBan,Foster Grant, etc., which are amde by these same Italians. Bev got an eyeglass frame to take home.

After strolling into and by the ritzy boutiques stretching from the Spanish steps to the Trevi Fountain — and picking up a gelato across from the fountain at one of the finest gelateria in the universe —  we went into the Pantheon for the first time. It’s now a basilica with Mass offered every Saturday and Sunday, although it’s closed Christmas Day. The sun was bouncing off Roman roofs so we didn’t have to worry about rain falling in through the hole in the massive copula that also lets light pour into the building, the only one to survive in its entirety since Roman times.

After lunch at my favorite eating spot – Melo’s, a Sicilian ristorante on the steps leading down from the bottom of  Via Nazionale to il Vittoriano and the Forum – we decided to take an earlier train back home instead of hanging around into the evening  We were tired.

The sun was rising as our train pulled out of Chiusi and it was setting as we rolled out of Roma Termini.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 10, 2009 at 3:05 am

Posted in Italy, Travel

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Siciliana

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“Take a week and visit Sicily,” everyone tells us. “ You have to see Palermo. Drive around the island and stop wherever you wish. The food is good.” We sorta agree that’s next time. U-T oldtimer Frank Saldana has visited the island a few times and he loves it. Any time of year is fine because of the climate but Mariolina said she likes February best because the blooming almond trees cover the hills with color.

Packing Them in in Panicale

Oil festival weekend of Nov. 21 – 22 was touted as a “gastronomic experience” of new wine and olive oil of the region. There are those who say, without argument or declamatory tones, that Trasimeno olive oil is the best in the country. You have to keep in mind that everything here is a festival. Bologna even had a Festival for Festivals, sorta leaving you with the feeling that, if there isn’t a reason for a festival, we’ll have one anyway. It brings in the booths and the tourists and the dollars. This little village has transformed itself into a tourist-dollar magnet. Prices are aimed at the transient, not the local. Friday’s weekly market was about half the size of those recalled from the past. And most of the ex-pats, from Europe as well as U.S., head home for the winter.

Met Santa Claus

Ran into entrepreneur Bobbie (a Swedish ex-pat whose last name I forget) in the piazza this morning (Nov. 19). We chatted for about half an hour until his wife, Ann, came to retrieve him. He’s growing a beard to be Santa Claus Dec. 24 for the kids of the village.

Napolitania

Wot a trip! Simone met us at the station, introduced us to his friends – sculptor/artist Dario Correale, girlfriend Maria, their roommate Tulia, and acrylic painter Rosario – who showed us the real Naples after we walked to and into some of the sites after a 90-minute hop-on/hop-off bus tour around this metropolis built at the foot of Vesuvius: “Christ in the Veil,” Santa Lucia, Little Calcutta, Piazza Plebescito, Palazzo Reale, Parque Virgiliano, Pozzuolo e Camu. The last is a 3,000+-year-old archeological site that few folks visit. We walked thru a long tunnel/warehouse to the Apollo sybill’s niche and then climbed to the acropolis to walk around the Temple of Apollo and, at the top, the Temple of Jove, with a magnificent view of the Med shore, and the islands of Proscida and Ischia. Ruins not as impressive as others but quiet and easier to visit. It was where the Greeks established their first sites for vacation homes on the Italian peninsula and founded Naples later. Harness racers were putting their horses thru their paces on the beach while we were enjoying the vista.

And we supped and sipped our way thru pizza margharita, birra Moretti, lemoncello, grappa, spaghetti and clams, fried pumpkin blossoms, fried shrimp, fried mozzarella, fried pasta cakes, mozzarella napolitana, mussels, lagostina, Dario’s parents gave us cookies and grappa and lemoncello and mandarino and, to take with us, a bottle of lemoncello and two bottles of home-made red wine for my birthday.

Four-hour train ride (26 euros each) got us home shortly after midnight tired and happy, in need of a shower and happy, a bit sad we left but happy we went.

Rain Routine

Our first rainy day here was almost welcome. It gave us a chance to rest, especially since we were invited to, and accepted, an invitation for cake – it was a gorgeous-looking and tasty chestnut cake with layers of meringue and cream that looked like a lady’s expensive hat — and cards with Riccardo and Mariolina. Invite was for 9 p.m. and we stayed until after midnight.

The wet weather cut down the size and time of the weekly Friday market in the piazza. It also gave Carla, who takes care of the church (Chiesi de San Michel) the opportunity to wash her car. She sweeps off the muck and mud  with a broom.

Downpour also prevented Simone (Aldo’s son) from putting out and plugging in the all-red-light Christmas tree in front of his osteria — Il Gallo del ????

We spent most of the day reading and napping and eating and napping and reading and napping.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

November 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Europe, Travel

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