Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Without Charlene's influence, I would not be in Florence right now.....and she arrived today to spend a few days with me while she is in Italy hunting for a property. I met Charlene a year ago while taking Italian lessons at the Italian Community Center in Little Italy, San Diego, and we subsequently became friends...and even shared a place together for a while as we planned our own separate agendas in Italy. Charlene has just obtained her dual citizenship, as her family has roots in Liguria. It was Charlene's inspiration that stimulated me to pursue my dual citizenship.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Donna and Kent

My first real weekend in Florence was special. Two friends from California visited me while on a Mediterranean cruise! Donna brought me a special memory which is hanging on my kitchen wall....a sweet quilt, made of course, by hand! Together, Donna, Kent and I took in most of the sites on the north side of the Arno, and had a welcoming time together!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Apartment in Florence

My Bedroom

Dining and Kitchen with view of terrace

Living Room with Duomo View

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Roberto, who 4 years ago left Naples with his family to settle down in San Diego, is an attorney specializing in Italian immigration law, in addition to being Vice Consul to the Italian Ministry in San Diego. Click on his photo to go to his website! He was my Italian Conversation teacher at the ICC in San Diego, and upon meeting him, there was an instant's that common Neopolitan blood! But Roberto is not Italian. He's Napoletano. For those Italians who grew up in Brooklyn or New York City, you know what I mean, because as a kid you thought all Italians were Napoletano, (....but we'd play with the Sicilians and Calabrese.....after all, we all looked alike and had our own individual brand of mafia in common). Little did I know that a year after meeting Roberto, he would be helping me to get my dual citizenship. Roberto has been a great inspiration to me, a real charismatic character, and his classes were exceptionally entertaining! Grazie, Roberto!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Finding My Roots in Ischia

Check back later.....Much, much more to come on this story....this was one of the most special moments in my life.....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Napoli to Ischia

As I boarded the ferryboat from Napoli to Lacco Ameno, Ischia, I was filled with excitement, as I embarked upon this mission that could potentially fill in all the pieces of the puzzle for me. I find myself here finally, leaving the majestic Mount Vesuvious behind me on the boat, and we get closer and closer to Lacco Ameno. This trip, I know in my heart, is going to be successful. I feel Lacco Ameno drawing me there...closer and the fishing villiage where my great grandfather was born. While on the ferry, I asked one of the ship's hands if I could go out on to the deck to take some photos and he allowed me to do it....but once I got out there, he came over and started to kiss me....I had to laugh! These Napolitans think they can get away with anything with a girl! I kindly asked him to lasciami and he obeyed. I had wrote to the Comune di Lacco Ameno (Lacco Ameno's town hall) several months ago from the U.S., before I knew his exact date of birth, because I couldn't even find his death certificate at that time, but from researching the records at Ellis Island I was able to guesstimate it to be 1863 - 1865. The problem is that there were almost 60 people with the name of Ciro Mazzella who immigrated from Ischia to New York City at the turn of the century. On Ischia this name is as common as John Smith. After writing twice to the Comune, I never received a response. So, I figured that I would just have to go there myself to find it in person. I had no idea whether I would find anything, and I never got my hopes up. In fact, with all of my research leading nowhere for such a long time, I would have been content just to visit Lacco Ameno, knowing in my heart from stories told within my family, that this is where Great Grandpa Mazzella was born. I had to see, touch and feel Lacco Ameno, where I know from my family that he was a pescatore (fisherman). I had hoped that the Anagrafe (person who keeps all birth and death documents) would have been able to research and find these documents, even though I only could provide a range of possible dates. But no response.

As luck or destiny would have it, the day before I left for Florence, I received in the mail, Ciro's death certificate from.......... It was signed by my grandfather. Was it fortune or fate? The day before I leave for Florence I have just what I need to find the original documents.

As the ferry approaced Lacco Ameno, I could feel my eyes swelling up and at once they broke into a burst of tears. There in front of me, on that gorgeous little moon-shaped white beach, was Lacco Ameno. It is 2.30 in the afternoon, and the City Hall was closed, so I took a walk around the town and looked for a room. I found a very nice hotel just a few blocks from the beach and the town hall. And that would be my first stop in the morning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One Week Here

Settled in my apartment. Internet is up and running. Off to Ischia tomorrow. Very content. Wood burning oven....I'll be cooking alot. The olive oil is to die for. Everything "fits". Nicola, my landlord is great. Visited the 4 schools that I previewed on-line and enrolled at Lorenzo di Medici...I'll be starting classes next Monday. I stocked the cupboard, got a new SIM card/phone number, checked out the post office, the market, and joined the local palestra. (Although I had a problem with the palestra, that I will discuss in another post) Everything I need is right outside my doorstep. Visited the bike shop again and said hello to Lorenzo and Lia...I won't be able to ride until the weekend after a long time off the bike. But I have to find out my destiny in Ischia. I must see where this leads me. I don't know what's going to happen in Ischia, but I have good vibes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Checking Out the Bike Shop

Today I took a ride to the bike store to meet Lorenzo and Lia, who work for the shop, who I contacted from the States when I first planned my trip to Florence. In fact, my selection criteria for the location of a potential apartment was: proximity to a bike shop, the schools and the palestra, in that order ! The only thing I wasn't prepared for,was the open arms with which they welcomed me, and the time they spent with me reviewing maps and showing me routes to help me to get acquainted with the roads best for cycling. Andrea tightened up my pedals, gave the bike a once-over and complimented me on how well I reassembled the bike. Lorenzo took my number and invited me to ride with the group next weekend. (But I'll be in Ischia). I then took a spin around the city center and enjoyed getting acquainted with my new neighborhood.

Day 5

Slept late after making pasta with tomatoes and oil and garlic for dinner last night. I could hear the Italian family across the courtyard dining with their friends. It was heartwarming. I am writing again which is a very good sign. I can’t believe how comfortable I feel here. Today I went to see another Health Club, because Palestra Ricciardi was smelly and their machines were very antiquated.

Today I went to the new gym, Klab, and it is much cleaner, but expensive. I will join that club and try for a refund at Palestra Ricciardi. I toured the area around the train station, and looked at Scoula Lorenzo de Medici. I think Cynthia was right,,,,,,I will probably enroll there, because it has a larger student body and I will get to know more people. Plus I think the curriculum is more diverse and there will be a better chance for me to enroll at my specific level. Then went to the train station and oriented myself with the ticket process. I had my first conversation in Italian with the ticket agent. It was fluid and he understood me completely and I understood him. I learned how to use the self-service ticket machine and found out the schedule for the trains to Napoli for my trip to Ischia, which I hope to take on Tuesday or Wednesday.

After seeing the gym, I headed for the cell phone company and asked some questions. I’m not going with Pixcell. Tomorrow I will get a SIM card with Vodafone or WIND. Then I browsed around the Lungarno and reminisced along the Arno about the first time I was there as a 16 year old student, when I bought a charm of the Pieta on the Ponte Vecchio. Can’t believe that was 35 years ago. I also recalled the photo of me and Dennis on one of our Italian vacations, on the Ponte Vecchio.

Then went to La Bussola, the restaurant owned by Bob Mc Intyre's daughter Sandi. It was closed, as today is Sunday. Then went to the supermercato, where I bought pancetta, anchovies, bread, pomodori, laundry detergent and water and wine. I did my first laundry today and my jeans came out white. Somehow, I bought powdered bleach instead of laundry detergent.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Benvenuto alla mia Bicicletta!

When I boarded my flight from LAX to Firenze, I never expected even for a moment, that my bike would arrive in Florence with me. I was prepared to deal with it, so I didn't panic when the baggage carousel came to a halt and I realized that I was the last one standing all alone in the baggage claim area. My Colnago was lost in space. I calmly went to the service desk and smiled to myself as everyone else in the line made a scene. I had my first experience dealing with the inefficiencies of the system....I simply filed a claim, gave them my phone number and address, hopped a taxi and forgot about it. Assolutamente nessuna problema!!! I knew my bike would eventually find me. After 13 years there was no way I would lose it now...not after all the time we've spent many times in Italy... so many tens of thousand of miles bike has a life of its own. And it belongs in Italy too, where it came from. I knew she'd make it back "home". So, after communicating with the "lost & found" for 4 days, my Colnago and I were reuinited. Perfect timing. It gave me a chance to get settled in my apartment, and today I assembled the bike and smiled. I am here. My bike is here with me. And we are going out for a ride together tomorrow!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cynthia' Visit

First thing that happened to me today was that I blew my American flatiron! I knew it would happen, eveb with an electrical converter, but I had to try it anyway.

Cynthia is a dear friend and former student of mine (before I entered the financial services arena) from Staten Island, who, during her Junior Year Abroad in Florence 15 years ago, decided to remain here. She's happily married and with her 2 youngsters Julia and Dario, they live in Tavarnelle, a quintessential Tuscan borgo in Chianti. When Cynthia was married here in 1996, I flew in from the States to attend her wedding in Lucca. Since then, over the years, we lost touch, but when I decided on this trip, we reuinited with much joy and alot of catching up to do with each other! Cynthia was a great help in assisting me to find an apartment here in Florence, and helped me to finalize my living arrangement here.

Today, we finally reunited....she came to my apartment with her little ones and needless to say, this was quite an emotional experience for us both. And, in anticipation of my trip to Ischia next week, she called the Ufficio di Anagrafe al Comune Lacco Ameno, gave them the information pertaining to my document search and prepared them to expect me next Thursday.

For dinner I prepared linguine allo scoglio…yes it was frozen, but it was still better than what I could have made with American fish!

It rained and the mosquitoes are getting in. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day 2

My kitchen...making zucchini flowers!
Was it really 7 years today?  Perhaps that was another piece of life that brought me to this destiny here in Italy .

I took another trip to the market, since I can't buy much food at one time with four flights of stairs to climb up to my apartment each time. Well at least this will make my knees strong! After buying more groceries I investigated some cell phone plans but didn't choose one yet. I visited the Scuola Michelangelo, another language school that I am considering, and I was proud of the fact that I was able to communicate with the administration in Italian with a fair amount of ease (but in very simple terms). It felt great. I then investigated the local gym....Palestra Ricciardi, which is a 2 minute walk from my apartment. It is GREAT. I am close to everything. This evening I made frutti di mare with garlic, oil and cherry tomatoes, and watched Miss Italia and Don Matteo on RAI Uno.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Day One

I woke up this morning to the sound bells!!!!  And to the light shining in my bedroom window, which faces a Florentine courtyard with a vista of clotheslines and plants hanging from the 600 year old buildings. I don't believe I am here. I felt at peace as I heard the Duomo bells softly in the distance.

My bike didn't make it with me to Florence yesterday, but I am not probably never made it out of Paris and I'm sure I'll receive it.  I am just sooo happy to have arrived.  I took a taxi from the airport and was a little surprised when we stopped at my new front door.  I hadn't imagined the front door to be so ancient! The stairs are tough!  But when I walked into my apartment I was startled.  It was exactly as I had pictured it.  My new landlord Nicola was there to greet me and to show me how everything works.  He hooked me up to the internet.  He doesn't speak English, so this is good for me! 

I spent the day getting familiar with my new neighborhood. I found the Standa supermarket which is just up the street and bought some basics....great bread, olive oil, basilico, parsely, garlic and some fresh new towels. I then took a stroll down to the Duomo, the magnitude of which still startles me. Then I went to visit Scuola Leonardo da Vinci, one of the Italian language schools that I am thinking of attending. Surprised that I was showing no signs of jet lag, I decided to spend the rest of the day watching Carlo Conti on TV and scrubbing down the bathroom and sorting out all my bathroom necessities. The bathroom and the washing machine are kind of small, bu I'll adapt. I don't know how anything works, but I'll learn with experience.

I feel at peace here in Florence.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Italy Unfolds in Front of Me

My flight from LAX to Paris, and then on to Florence happened in a blink. This was the flight of my life. And maybe of my death...I mean....I feel like this flight took me from death to life...somehow, I left my body back in California as I traveled through space and time. I felt like only my soul was traveling with me. Could I maybe have died in California, and I am now being transported to heaven? Have I already lived the final moments of my physical life, and this plane is now taking me to life's destination? Does Italy lie, for me, beyond the pearly white gates?This is starting to feel like something clearly spiritual. This isn't just any vacation, any adventure, any trip, any mission. This is what happens when you finally realize your destiny, when you finally can touch that dream.

I didn't know how I was going to react when I saw the Tuscan landscape appear in front of me from my window on the plane. But as the plane started approaching Firenze, the splendor of the Tuscan hills started coming into view and as I got closer and closer, I started to feel Italy in my eyes started spilling tears, my body shook...I felt like Dorothy when she returned from Oz...there's no place like home. That's all I could feel. I was overwhelmed with a sensation of being pulled....being compelled....being welcomed...being expected. As my plane landed I felt like all of Italy was looking up into the sky, sighting my plane, saying "here she is...Barbara's home".

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Destination: Italy...Going In The Opposite Direction

I'm ready to follow my dream. As I lock the past behind, the moments tick away. I am ready to explore my dream of living and studying in Italy. Tomorrow I depart for Florence, to open some new doors and to close some old ones. I'm compelled to get closer to my roots and to connect with my history in a way that previously hasn't been possible.

I've also embarked upon an ancestry search, which has become a thrilling journey of self'-discovery through which I have uncovered information about my great grandparents that might allow me to pursue my Italian dual citizenship

Life has put me at a crossroads where I can listen closer to the voice that I have heard calling me at different stages of my life. At times when I couldn't pay attention, at times that I couldn't answer. But now I can. Italy has been calling me and
I am ready to respond.
Tomorrow I depart for Italy with only the deepest desire to connect as closely as possible with the spirit inside of me that is Italian and to find a sense of fulfillment and comfort, as close to my roots as I can get.