My Comments on the South of Italy

Reggio Calabria

Reggio Calabria

An article that appeared this week on the New York Times Op-Ed page caught my attention. Respected writer Beppe Severgnini titled his piece, Why No One Goes to Naples. In the piece, Severgnini is not only talking about Naples, but also the rest of southern Italy, or the Mezzogiorno. Reading his article made me feel a little sad because I realize that much of what he writes is true. The saving grace is that his perspective is somewhat hopeful.

I found  places in Puglia and Sicily to be appealing partly because they were not crowded and non-touristy. I enjoyed traveling to places where I had to speak Italian and where I was not overrun by tour groups. Cities in Puglia like Lecce and Ostuni and smaller towns like Cisternino and Martina Franca were charming. I am positive that travelers to Italy would also discover their   appeal. I am not so surprised by the statistic that only 13 percent of travelers to Italy.

Mobile fruit and vegetable  stand in Lecce

Mobile fruit and vegetable stand in Lecce

Sicily is a special place for me because my grandparents came from the Messina region. But this island too, is very diverse and I discovered magic in its people, in Siracusa, Cefalù, Savoca, and other cities and villages.

Cisternino centro storico

Cisternino centro storico

As Severgnini states, the Italian government is losing an opportunity to spread the word and be able to increase tourism to these regions as well as the beautiful countryside in Basilicata and Calabria. He minces no words when he explains about the misappropriated funding for tourism and the corrupt practices involving infrastructure. I saw first-hand last fall how much of the autostrada in the south was under construction, and also had numerous detours. What should take six hours to drive takes ten.

Naples port

Naples port

As far as Napoli is concerned I must admit I had my own fears and concerns, about safety and crime. I never wanted to spend time there after I saw the trash all over the streets and read the horror stories by travel agents. And some of it is true. The perception of Naples will likely always be connected to crime due to the heavy presence of the Camorra, the Mafioso of Napoli. However much of the trash  problem is created by the Mafiosi, who control the industry. Corruption and bribery is well-documented and is an inherent problem.

Ferry boats in Naples

Ferry boats in Naples

I have, however, had the good fortune to meet Tina, from Discover Napoli Destinations. Her enthusiasm for her city is contagious and she has sung the praises of Napoli and posted  countless stunning photos of this southern Italian city.

Port of Naples

Port of Naples

I realize that I have missed out on experiencing another gem of the south, and on my next trip to Italy I am going to see the good side of Naples, with Tina’s help.

Italy is an amazing place, and as you know, I have a continuous love affair with Italy which only gets stronger every time I visit. Let’s join Severgnini in his hopes that the new young prime minister, Matteo Renzi, can implement changes that will make for a brighter future in  southern Italy.

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My Love Affair with Sicily – A Sneak Peek

Springtime flowers

Springtime flowers

Springtime is here, even for my friends in the north. Easter is less than two weeks away, and I have been home from Italy for close to seven months. During that time I have been focused on writing My Love Affair with Sicily, and the writing is finished. The past few months have been involved with the editing process, formatting, and creating a cover.

When an author self-publishes, much of the formatting and cover design becomes another process after the writing ends. Oh yes, one can pay someone to handle both of these tasks, and I know plenty of competent publishers who would be happy to do so.

I guess I feel the need to create the design myself from one of my own photographs, just as I did in Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy. So my initial choice was to use one of my photographs of a narrow street in Siracusa, because I think it depicts one of the sights which are so appealing to me in Sicily.

When I received my copies of the galley proof, one for me and one for my meticulous editor, I decided, however, not to use that cover photo. It seemed dark and drab and not as special as I remembered. Instead I chose another favorite scene of mine in Sicily, a view of the waterfront in Cefalù. I hope you like it. Here is your sneak peek.

My Love Affair with Sicily book cover

My Love Affair with Sicily book cover

Due to my editor’s schedule, she has not yet been able to do the final review on the galley proof. I am still going through mine as well. With a little luck, she will be able to complete this last task within the next two weeks. I hope to be able to announce the release of My Love Affair with Sicily by the end of April. Stay tuned for updates as the date approaches. who knows…there may be a giveaway or two.

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I Am in Love with Italy – No Words Needed

Gondolas in Venice

Gondolas in Venice

Gelato vendor in  Lucca

Gelato vendor in Lucca

Fruits and Vegetables for sale in Lecce, Italy

Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre

Varenna

Varenna

Portofino harbor

Portofino harbor

Verona

Verona

Milano Centrale

Milan’s main train station

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

Isola Bella in Taormina

Isola Bella in Taormina

Bellagio, Italy on Lake Como

Bellagio, Italy on Lake Como

View of Capri from Monte Solaro Chairlift

View of Capri from Monte Solaro Chairlift

Trevi Fountain in Rome

Trevi Fountain in Rome

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Writing, Rewriting, and Editing

I know it has been two weeks since I posted here and I apologize. Many of my writer friends blog two and three times a week, and I envy them. Apparently they are more focused on a schedule than I am, but somehow I seem to be busy all the time. Most of my time lately has been directed toward  completing my second book, My Love Affair with Sicily.

So the good news is that I have finished writing the book and it is near the final editing stage. I say near, because this process is painstakingly slow, and has to be repeated several times. My editor is currently reviewing the last half of my completed manuscript, after I have already carefully finished the rewrite of each chapter.  She tells me it is looking much better, and that there are only some minor adjustments, so I am pleased. Yet, after this process, I will still have to make the necessary changes. Then I must format the final file in order to upload it to CreateSpace, since I am self-publishing, just as I did with my first book.

I spent two days creating my cover, since the resolution and size requirements are very specific. I am happy I was able to use one of my photographs that I took in  Siracusa and am pleased with the final result. I hope my readers will be too.

Once I submit  the finished interior file as well as the cover, I will be able to order two galley proofs within a few days. One is for me and one is for my editor. Each of us will once more review the entire book to check for any typos, formatting issues, or other problems. Once that process is complete, my book will be for sale.

I almost feel as though I am in Italy, since these procedures take so long, but the end result will be worth it. I had hoped to publish this book in early spring, preferably this month. It seems more likely that now it will not be a reality until the end of next month. My editor has a life too; although she is is dedicated to working on my book every day,  she has a family as well as other important things happening in her life as well. Patience is the name of the game, and for any writers who hope to self-publish I cannot stress this enough. Yes the editing and rewriting process can be very  frustrating but a necessary part of authoring a book.

 I will definitely let you know when My Love Affair with Italy launches. I plan to publish it as an eBook as well as a paperback. It will be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and other bookstores of course. In addition, I will let you know how you can order a signed copy if you like. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, enjoy a few scenes from Sicily!

DSCN2810 (640x480) (548x412) Fruit vendors in CataniaIMG_1131 (640x480)DSCN2627 (640x479)

Isola Bella in Taormina

Isola Bella in Taormina

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Weekend Fun – “Festival Italiano”

Since I had the weekend off I was able to enjoy part of my Sunday at the fifth annual “Festival Italiano” which was held at the marina in downtown Fort Pierce, Florida. Only a fifteen-minute drive from my home, I arrived and parked and could hear the sounds of Italian lyrics as I walked toward the water.

DSCN4010 (640x480)Such a great venue for this winter festival ~ the marina in downtown Ft. Pierce on the Indian River Lagoon, or intracoastal waterway. It is the perfect backdrop on this partly cloudy, partly sunny afternoon. The temperature is great, warm enough for shorts and capris, but not too hot.

DSCN4000 (640x478)I had expected more vendors at the festival, but even though the crowd was small while I was there, the main attraction seemed to be the entertainment. An impressive line-up of Italian singers and entertainers was listed and when I arrived, Joe Giardino was singing.

DSCN3998 (640x480)Dressed in a dark suit and a blue tie, this performer was the most formally dressed of anyone here. He was singing songs with Italian lyrics and I loved it. He even sang my favorite song, Con Te Partiro. I watched and listened for awhile, taking some photos and enjoying the ambience. Some people were standing and others came prepared, bringing their own chairs to use. I was glad to be here.

DSCN4003 (640x479)Wandering around, I checked out some of the vendors. All the food vendors were at one end and I wanted to see what was available since I intended to sample some of the Italian offerings. Quite a variety, from sausage and peppers to pizza and calzones, to Italian ice to zeppole, which is Italy’s version of fried dough only better.

DSCN4005 (640x480)I did not see any gelato but I knew a gelato shop was just around the corner. I had tried it once; it was good but there is nothing like gelato in Italy.

DSCN4004 (640x482)Then I spotted the Roma Bakery vendor and sure enough, they had cannoli. I had hoped to find one to bring home for later, so I was smiling to myself. There was also barbecued chicken and ribs, which didn’t seem appropriate for an Italian festival, but this is Ft. Pierce.

DSCN4013 (640x480)The tomato sauce dishes with pasta did not look so appealing but the hot sausage and pepper sandwich did. So I decided to walk around some more and then come back later when I was hungry.

The other vendors were surprisingly not all about Italian items, although one was exactly that and I bought a small Italian flag to use when I do my book signings. Others were the typical everyday vendors trying to make a living. In fact I recognized one of them selling clothing. He sets up near our Treasure Coast Writers Guild tent in Vero Beach.

I enjoyed looking out on the water and watching the seagulls flying around. I always feel so peaceful here. All the while I am wandering I can hear the beautiful voice of the Italian singer.

DSCN4007 (640x480)

After some time I returned to the food area, and bought a hot sausage sandwich from Guiseppe’s (and yes it is spelled that way) and a Diet Coke. Then I walked back toward the river, where I had noticed some tables earlier. I asked a couple if they minded if I sat near at their table and they said fine. I guess I always enjoy talking with people wherever I go, because we started a conversation, and couldn’t stop talking about Italy. This delightful couple, Jessie and Pat, are soon going to observe their 50th wedding anniversary, and are going to Italy to celebrate! Jessie is from Sicily and speaks fluent Italian and Pat’s father came from a town hear Napoli. I so enjoyed this couple.

DSCN4015 (478x640)By the way the sausage sandwich was delicious!

Although a lot more went on during the three days of this festival, I was happy to be able to go even for a short while. Kudos to the organizer and Italophile, Jack DiGiorgio, who did a great job. He is the host of the Saturday radio show, “Sabato Italiano,” and I was a guest on his show last fall.

Next year I will plan to stay longer at the festival…I know I will not be disappointed.

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ITALY Blog Awards 2013 – The Winners | Italy Magazine

The awards are out and no, I didn’t win, and that is okay. But I want to congratulate all the winners. I am thrilled that some of my favorite bloggers and friends are in the winners’ circle.  As promised, I am keeping you updated. You can see all the winning blogs on Italy Magazine’s link here. ITALY Blog Awards 2013 – The Winners | Italy Magazine.

Many of these blogs are the best of the best and I would encourage you to check some of them out. I have discovered some great Italophiles with amazing blogs about Bella Italia as a result of this contest.

blogawardsfinalThank you to all of you who voted and for all your support. I am always happy to read your comments and appreciate that you are interested in my blog. It is partly because of you that I feel a responsibility to update my blog, and I apologize that it is not as often as I might like.

Now for more updates…I have been spending most of my free time this past month working on my book, My Love Affair with Sicily, which I hope to publish sometime soon. My editor had been working closely with me, and without her attention to detail, I would not be so thrilled to publish. I value what an editor does and this process is somewhat time-consuming, but very necessary. It brings me back to high school, and even college, where instructors returned papers with red marks all over them.

So that is what I am doing, and will let you know as the process nears completion. I am currently working on the last two chapters, and then she will have to review the entire book again before it is sent off to receive the proof. Then that will have to reviewed. So it is not a quick process.  Stay tuned.

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Italy Magazine Blog Awards – The Shortlist

Gondolas in Venice

Gondolas in Venice

Two years ago, when I started writing this blog my purpose was to be able to write about my experiences and post photos while I traveled alone in Italy for three months. I had no idea then, that I would have interacted with so many people that only knew me from reading my blog.  And certainly I didn’t know then, that I would one day have so many followers and readers who have been extremely supportive and eager to learn about Italy. Since then I have come to know many of you personally and have learned much from reading and following your blogs, and also from your comments. And I thank all of you for being so interested and engaging and supportive. Your continued support encourages me to continue to write about Italy, the country I love so much.

italy-blogger-square

Imagine my surprise then, two days ago, when I found out that margieinitaly made it to the shortlist by Italy Magazine for their Italy Blogger Awards! And what is even more amazing is that my blog is in the company of some of the finest blogs  about Italy. I have read most of these blogs and have personally met some of the bloggers, whom I consider to be friends.

This truly is an honor and I can honestly say that I now believe celebrities when they say that it is an honor just to be nominated. The exposure to my blog and all the other blogs as a result of Italy Magazine’s awards is tremendous, for which I am grateful.

Final voting is taking place now and will end February 8th. So if you are interested, I’d ask you to click on the link and check out all the blogs, and then cast your vote. Winners will be announced on February 10th, and I will keep you posted on the results.

Grazie mille. Un abbraccio. Baci.
Thank you so much.  A hug. Kisses.

View of St Peter's from the Tiber

View of St Peter’s from the Tiber

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Driving in Italy – Some Thoughts

These posts seem to be spaced out more and more, and I apologize. I have been focused on writing My Love Affair with Sicily and have not posted anything here lately. Mi dispiace. I am sorry. By the way, I was hoping for an early spring release, but we’ll see. I am doing some rewriting now after a phone call with my editor.

The latest story that I have been writing about comes near the end of the book and I am in Palermo. Even though I was not the driver I cannot think of Palermo without remembering the nightmare driving situation there.

Driving and Parking in Sicily

Driving and Parking in Sicily

Actually this is not something that only occurs in Palermo or other cities in Sicily, although I can personally attest to the craziness in Messina while I was driving there at night. And the parking is another story. It seems that it is OK to park in a crosswalk, to double park, and to park at the edge of an intersection. When in Italy, do as the Italian do…

Parking in Catania

Parking in Catania

I found this video about driving in Rome and had a good laugh; yes it is much easier to laugh while watching a YouTube video than actually being in the aggravating situation.  What is amazing to me though, is the reactions of the Italians.

Their viewpoint is that this is normal and that everyone sort of knows how to drive without traffic lights or signs or police officers.  In fact these are the comments on my blog and  videos on YouTube.

Maybe so, because truly I did not see too many cars involved in accidents but I did see plenty with dents and scratches; in fact most of them had some type of minor damage.

Traffic in Rome

Traffic in Rome

And then there was the bus driver in Taormina driving up to Castelmola. I was able to record his reactions as I sat in the first seat behind him.

Again, it’s funny when you are not the one driving.  As my Italian friends say with a shrug, “Boh.”

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Happy New Year and Thank You – Last Blog Post for 2013

Keys-Islamorada sunset (2)Last Blog Post of 2013

Although I am not writing from Italy I have some thoughts and want to share them. For me 2013 has been an amazing year, with a loving family, a son who just got married to a wonderful woman, a fantastic trip to Italy, a book that is doing well, and meeting so many wonderful writers, travelers, photographers, and others who share a passion for something. My passion is Italy but also my family and finding the positive side of life.

Not everyone is as fortunate to have family or to have opportunities to travel or free time to write. Sometimes life is not so good for everyone and I think it is important to remember that. Life can be a struggle for some people; even just getting dressed may be a major job. What we have to cope with in life is all relative, and I feel like part of what I can do is encourage others and support others however I can.

Let’s try to make 2014 a tear where we find the good in things and not so much focusing on the negative. It wastes a lot of energy and doesn’t change much anyway.

Thank you all for your support, encouragements, friendship, and just being there. Best wishes for a Happy New Year…

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Photos from Rome – September 2013

View of St Peter's from the Tiber

View of St Peter’s from the Tiber

I realize that it has been close to three weeks since I updated my blog. I have been trying to catch up and write about my days in Italy this past September, since I didn’t have to write when I was there.  Lately though, I am being asked if I am still in Italy, and the reality is that I have been home for over two months. I can see why  it may be confusing.  So instead of finishing to blog about the last three days in Italy, spent in Pompeii and Rome, I have decided to upload some photos from Rome instead, and concentrate on writing.

I am in the process of writing My Love Affair with Sicily and am more than half finished, or at least I think so until my editor starts getting busy with her red pen. So if I am going to complete my book by the spring, my self-imposed deadline, I need to write and keep writing.

Enjoy the photos from Rome where the weather was warm and the food was amazing.  Just uploading them brings me right back to that wonderful place. I am even considering making cacio e pepe this weekend.

at Campo de' Fiori

at Campo de’ Fiori

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