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Going back to Italy

31 August, 2008 (08:45) | Living in Europe | By: admin

My mother was born and raised in Florence, Italy. My father was an American soldier of Italian and French descent, He was stationed in Florence at the end of WW2. They met at a school dance put on to entertain the American troops.

Although I myself was born in Hollywood, I was asked at age 9 if I wanted to go to school in Italy for a year, to a boarding school in the hills of Florence called Poggio Imperiale. I jumped at the the opportunity, knowing it would please my mother. I would get to know my great grandmother, who she cherished. I didn`t like being a kid in L.A., there were too many mean kids around. So at age ten I went off to boarding school in Florence where I fit in immediately. After my year in boarding school,

My aunt, Zia Fiorella is my mother’s younger sister, and has the same whimsical, playful sense of humor as my mom. Zia Fiorella became my surrogate mammina that year. I would spend every other weekend staying with her. I would also spend some weekends with my other Aunt, Zia Vera, who lived down the street, but she had a more severe personality. We never became close, though her son, my cousin Stefano has always been my soulmate. Our already strong bond was cemented the year, a few years later, he came (alone) to spend the summer with my family.
Zia Vera had a great garden, and a dog named Dingo. My seven cousins (between the 2 aunts) all became my best friends. Both my grandmother and my great-grandmother were still alive. Life in Italy was a lot like how Fellini depicts it in his film Amacord. We would go to the local church on Saturdays, which would transform itself into the cinema that day. I saw my first James Bond movie (zero-zero-sette) dubbed over into Italian in the neighborhood church in Florence. The pews were uncomfortable, but they actually sold bags of popcorn. It was all a fun and funny way to see such classics for the first time, surrounded by cousins, friends, grandmas, families…little kids squirming on their uncomfortable pews. I remember “Questo Pazzo, Pazzo,Pazzo Mondo”, the slapstick comedy called Its a Mad Mad Mad Word in english, I believe. At age 10 I was speaking fluent Italian within three months.

I will be going to Florence in about ten days, to visit my family and to kick around old haunts.

It was this year in Florence that I began having adventures on my own.

Here is a photo of me taken in my Poggio Imperiale school uniform:

And this is a photo (from over 40 years ago) of my great grandmother, Nonna Lina, sandwiched between my aunt Zia Vera and my uncle, Zio Roberto: