All posts tagged memories


Published March 30, 2013 by Tony


Easter time.
In addition to doing my best wishes to you all, I take this opportunity to tell you some memories that in these days come to my mind.
At that time I was a toddler and often on Friday our grandmother picked me up to let me spend a few days at her home.
The grandmother “mmaculatina“, as people called her (Immaculate, God rest her soul), in those days did not go to work, and aware I liked being with her, came to our house to take me, and sometimes took my sister too. She loved her grandchildren, and on that time I was the youngest grandson, and although she was living with our grandfather, between work and commitments she spent little time at home. It had been years that the granddad was already retired, having made the postman became sick with bronchitis and arthritis, and alone spent all his days at home. He had his own bed with a bedside table on which a glass of wine and his radio never had to be missing. A man of few words who spent his days walking slowly in the house, sitting on the bed, sipping wine, smoking and listening to 1920: My grandma when youngopera on the radio.

It was an old building where, on different floors, a long balcony gave access to homes, inside the building those balconies turned all around the perimeter of the apartment blocks. The houses were not very large, entering directly to the first room, usually the living room, where the granddad had created his personal corner. On the right there was a small kitchen with a small window that looked out on the perimetral balcony, and where there was a very small bathroom formed simply from toilet and a sink. Beyond the living room was my grandma’s bedroom, that had a small balcony overlooking the street below. We slept in the same double-bed with grandma and I still remember her laughter when she told relatives how I sometimes fell asleep touching her breast and resting my head on his chest. I loved my grandmother and it was only the need in maternal instincts of a kid who, like me, had evidently not received enough cuddles from his mum. The grandma “Immacolatina” was good, cheerful and friendly, as well as a holy woman and had dedicated her life to work in the factory where she had become the “teacher,” as called her there, to wit the supervisor. Her relationship with the granddad were not excellent, having been from long more a nurse than a wife, and she was glad to have us at home to chat and pass the time.

As usual, Friday is the day when all Neapolitans dedicated to the preparation of the “casatiello“, also called “tortano“, the typical Neapolitan rustic pie (Neapolitan Lard Bread). And the grandma prepared it Friday afternoon to let it rise all day and then in the night took it at the bakery for baking. In those years it was customary to let casatiello bake by bakers because not everyone had a powerful ovens as bakeries where the cooking was done in an optimal way. There was no area or neighborhood that did not have some baker nearby. Anyone who would have walked in the alleys of Naples, during Friday and Holy Saturday, felt the almost stagnant scent of “casatielli” which were cooked at homes or by bakers. How can we forget that smell?
Odor that became all one with those feast days Grandma & Iand represented them as well. For this in Naples, even today, Easter is to say casatiello and vice versa.

At that time, due to the enormous work to be done between Thursday and Saturday, bakers worked continuously day and night. For this you could go to one of them at any time of the day or night, and deliver your casatiello or withdraw it.
The baker from whom my grandma went, was a few blocks from the house, the huge old wooden front door was always open for the occasion, placed on the ground and stacked up one above the other, hundreds of aluminum “ruoto” (round baking pan). They were the casatielli waiting for bakery.
Truly spectacular!
At that time, not everybody had the pan with the hole in the middle, which gives casatiello the classic donut shape, and so, most of the containers had a wineglass or a cup (glass or metal) at the center, around which the pasta was then grown encasing it.

Crossed the entrance hall, people arrived at the courtyard where on both the sides were stacked firewood for the ovens, shovels, sacks, buckets and other objects. In addition to the smell of casatielli, so strong here to become pungent, you also felt the scent of flour that you found everywhere, on the ground, on walls, on objects, everything was whitewashed with a pinch of flour!
Entered in the furnaces room, the heat became almost unbearable. Everywhere there were shelves made by long wooden boards, one above the other, on which side by side the casatielli already cooked were placed.
Here, the casatiello was not more as white as those encountered at the entrance, but the color of the rind of bread in its various gold shades.  A variety of sizes and shapes, those with the eggs above visible under two small strips of pasta in the shape of X, those without eggs or those where the eggs were just popping out below the golden crust. You could not but be enchanted to see those scenes, and especially for a kid like me.

People came and went, with those who were giving their casatiello and those who were going to pick up it, and all workers each with its own task. On that occasion there were more people at work and one of them went to the grandma and after taking two plates of aluminum from a huge basket, gave one to her and attacked the other with thin wire to the container’s handle. The baker asked if the casatiello had already risen and then placed it onto the others waiting for cooking. Probably, somewhere else there were those which were in need of further rise before being baked.

On those aluminum plates was imprinted a number which from then on would have marked our “casatiello.” After cooking the casatielli were placed on those planks in a coarse numerical order, according to the number that had been tied close, so to trace it when the owner would come back for it. In fact, to take the casatiello you had to give back your plate, and the baker began to turn around the wooden shelves to look for it. Hundreds and hundreds casatielli. You paid, wrapped the container in a cloth, and went back home happy with your casatiello ready to be eaten.
Things of other times, when everything was simpler and folksy!




Published April 14, 2012 by Tony


One of the reasons why the international giant Starbucks has not invaded Italy with its cafes is right at the base of this new chat. It is no coincidence that the idea of exporting Italian coffee culture overseas came to Howard Schultz, just after a visit to Italy in the far 1983.
Except some countries of Latin culture, the culture of the coffee shop, or simply of the “BAR” as we call it,  has not grown around so strong as in Italy. For this, in Italy the ratio between the number of bar and people is (or was) the highest in the world. The old Italic bar, the traditional one, is however disappearing and we can find someone just in some small and remote village of the province, where time seems to stand still. Once, especially in small-towns realities, only the bar was the meeting place for a chat and pastime. In a certain way, such as the piazza (square) of each country where, especially on Sundays and holidays, people found themselves to socialize, discuss and pass the time.
From the postwar period on, the bar not only offered coffee and cappuccino, but refined by Juke-box, TV, billiard, flippers, tables for playing cards and with the inevitable table-football. The bar was the only store always open, from early morning until night, when you come home tired, with the hope of a better future.
Older people spent hours playing cards, and in Italy every region has its own playing cards and its traditional games. Alike a note picture postcard, we were used to see two, three or four elders sitting at a table, inside or outside the bar, and kill time playing cards, where often the loser was the one who had to pay for coffee or beer. Children often lingered there to watch them in the hope of a coin or lollipop. The older boys, however, played billiard, table-football or hang out between a coffee and a cigarette, watching the passersby in the street. It was par excellence the place to socialize, tittle-tattle and talk about football, because on that time we went home only to eat or sleep, and there was nothing more than television or radio as a medium of entertainment. The bartender, then, was the friend of all, always respectful and friendly and like the local barber or hairdresser, knew everything about everybody. That was just a place for men and a woman hardly hang around, unless had to buy milk or pastries.
Italian bar was a place for passaging through or have a break, a sort of pool hall where we could joke or argue, but not eating or dancing, as it came about American cafeterias. Under this point of view, we Italians are always been reserved and ashamed, while alcohol has never been our best friend in misfortune.
All of us older generation grew up with the culture of the bar, and it was there that we made acquaintance, exchanged news, made a deal, learned new things and daydreamed listening to some 45 rpm record playing in the jukebox.

And that’s where just as a thirteen-years-old I learned to smoke, play cards and table-football. Having no money, it was the only place where someone could offer me a cigarette, or challenge in a table-football match. It was there, thanks a friend who played drums, I also learned to play it and to love music. Still there, where even alone, I often hang out at and spent the long sunny summer afternoons, watching a billiard or card game. Time seemed to flow more slowly and, despite everything, it all seemed calmer and in human scale.
Over the years the situation has changed and today, including globalization, Internet, crises and busy life, this type of bar has no longer reason to exist. Many bar have closed and if those which remain do not adapt, will follow the same fate. Today we look to the comfort, luxury, all-in-one, take and go, and apart some pensioner, which of us gets time or inclination to play a game cards at a table in a bar?


Published August 23, 2011 by Tony



During the walk of our life we make acquaintance and meet many people, including friends and relatives, and it sometimes happens to establish a closer relationship, an intimate or emotional one, and I am not referring, in this case, to romance or love stories in particular.

Relationships that often last many years and for various reasons then end, falling into oblivion inexorably.

Usually they are relationships that arise during youth, when we have more time to wander and to be together and later then, the unfolding of the life – from both the sides – leads them to end or to limit certain friendships born in the past. For example, consider the entry into the world of work, with all its obligations and problems, or the love affairs, engagement or marriage, with all the concerns and commitments coming from it. Important things that affect and transform our life radically, opening new chapters of our existence. And just in these new chapters it can happen to forget or put aside some things happened in the previous chapters, and this is what happened to me too.

While in the bed I was trying to fall asleep, during one of these hot and sultry summer night, my mind, as often happens, was wandering over time reminding or analysing past things.

Franco and Giovanni the first years we knew each other.

Franco and Giovanni the first years we knew each other.

At once, John’s face appeared…. Franco’s, parent’s and other members of their family.

They were distant relatives, but between us suddenly came a friendship and a deep fondness that lasted long. Years of carefree, happiness and projects, with John and Franco, two brothers, younger than me, whose home I went every weekend to be together. The days spent together at the seaside, the humour and joy of their father and the good will and affection of the mother, who regarded me as a member of the family … … a whirlwind of memories flowed as a flashback in my closed eyes.

What a tenderness and melancholy!

It is true that we exceptionally met at a funeral many years after the end of the relationship, with just the time to ask each other:

how are you? … where are you living? … what job are you doing now?

In my eyes their faces were those of 30 years ago, faces that I knew well and that will remain forever in my mind, and I wondered:

how do they could look like nowadays?!

In the case we will meet in the street, it even could happen to  be unrecognizable people.

Gee whiz! A shiver crossed my skin.

Their family changed their residence after our friendship had vanished and some year later I had knowledge that John got married, and because the job had gone to the north.  I do not know his children as he doesn’t know mine. They are perfect strangers each other.

What a shame!

I do not have their addresses and neither found them on Facebook … who knows, all things considered, I perhaps prefer to remember their faces as they looked like at the time.

As said, this can be considered just one of those relationships that ends without a particular reason, and though long and important, then became a memory that will disappear with us only.
How strange life is!



Published April 13, 2011 by Tony

It is springtime.

Also if today the weather has been bad all over Italy,  the winter is away and we perceived it some day ago when the temperature rose and the sun gave us enjoyable and longer days. The brisk air at morning or evening, Nature that awaken and the birds song already had announced the coming of the  spring.

As usually, it wont last that long and before you can say knife, hot days will arrive, especially here in the south, meeting again the summer.

But, anybody feels the spring in a different way…. to whom the allergy comes back, to whom the sleep always seems insufficient, to whom weakness afflict and to who this new season brings vigor and excitement.

I’s sure that the physical-chemical effects leading the Nature to awaken in a so short lapse of time enthrall as fascinate me looking at that little nature I’ve the possibility to meet in the vicinity. Naked trees and wizen plants that live again gladdening with their colours and vitality. Birds and insects become more active and numerous and the one who luckily is living next to woods or fields feels and can appreciate more this event. And it happens from time out of mind…. before the humankind could populate this planet. And only this should be sufficient to respect and care the Nature that belongs to it as of right. Nature shows it and ask for it by its vitality (thank goodness!) which deserves reverence. Small plants, herbs and mosses that grow at the streets edges, in the asphalt, on the walls and on the roofs, in the squares cracks  and even inside the old abandoned objects!

If this is not the miracle of the life, of the survival and of the adaptation, tell me where we can meet it.

In case of a global disaster, whereas life could disappear, many scientists say that the only living being to survive and repopulate quickly will be the insects (together virus, bacteria and fungus), practically the littlest being and the less esteemed…. whatever one may say, they are the strongest!

This is not a good expectation but I like to think that whereas sunlight isn’t lacking or coming back then, also the vegetation, thanks to the vitality I mentioned, could return to color with green the Earth.

Without plants the life for animals (and for us) isn’t possible and, alas, many forgot that!

Probably many of you have some memory linked with the spring as in me still is alive the memory of some smell. Not far from the home where I spent my childhood there were some building with a small garden inside and during this season, any time I passed alonside I felt the scent of some flowers, as the orange blossoms, coming from those gardens. Heady and pleasant aromas that as a natural clock informed us that the summer was behind the corner.

Inexorably, mind associated that odor to that place and so, anytime my olfactory cells feel that fragrance my mind unintentionally goes back to that time and places. I would like to know what memory link you with the springtime, to its smells and colors.

Good spring to you all.