Weekend Reads: “The Wedding Officer” by Anthony Capella

Is there anything better than disappearing for a weekend with a good book? I love stories that pull you in and transport you to another world, especially if that world is someplace in beautiful Italy! For Weekend Reads, Lisa Fantino from Wanderlust Women Travel is here to tell us about one of her favorite books, which is set in Naples, Italy in the 1940s. This book is a wonderful weekend escape, but I’ll let Lisa tell you all about it.

Welcome, Lisa!

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Anyone who’s ever been to London knows that you are up and down, and down and up, on an endless wave of moving stairs taking you to the subterranean Tube, which then moves you to and fro beneath the streets above. It’s a lot of time spent moving and ad agencies in London take full advantage of that by plastering the tube walls with posters for everything from safe sex and a lot of West End shows to books. That is how I discovered Anthony Capella and fell in love with “The Wedding Officer.”

 

Wedding Officer Anthony Capella

London is my second home but Italy is where my heart and soul reside and as my journey to London neared an end, I needed a book for my next flight to Athens. The adverts for “The Wedding Officer” so intrigued me that I purposefully made my way to Oxford Street and grabbed a copy at the Waterstone’s near the Bond St. tube They had such a sale that I grabbed 3 more novels to lug home. But I digress……………….

Capella had me at “ciao,” to butcher another writer’s line! This author is wonderful at blending the Italian language, its nuances and passions, into a slow simmer with its culture and the foreigners who come to love all things Italian. He captures the smallest references to the Napoletani’s wariness of outsiders and how that evolves into an inevitable acceptance if the foreigner manages to be resilient enough to withstand the scrutiny.

Capella’s love affair with food is at once erotic and sensual, as when James’ love interest, Livia, fights with others in a street market to grab a swordfish for dinner (afterall, the best is always worth fighting for) or she dances a passionate tarantella in the center of the piazza! It’s an ongoing dance between the couple, as he struggles with her language and customs, and she strains under the religious morals of 1940 Naples to realize her sensual potential.

Yet, this is also a story of war and the losses suffered and the love that helps people survive. Very few writers are as gifted as Capella in conveying both historical facts and passionate dreams in the same breath. He draws you into a place and a time that you never want to leave. It took me a year after reading “The Wedding Officer” to visit Campania for the first time……..and it still takes my breath away each and every time!

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Lisa Fantino is an award-winning journalist and attorney. She is the creative force and Italian travel concierge for Wanderlust Women Travel and the Amalfi Coast destination wedding site Wanderlust Weddings. She recently launched Amalfi Blu, gifts and jewelry inspired by the beauty of the Amalfi Coast. In her spare time, she also writes travel features for MNUI Travel Insurance and blogs as Lady Litigator.

Photo Friday: Pieces of Pompeii

 

Ciao Amalfi Pieces of Pompeii

 

At the end of August, I visited the archaeological ruins of Pompeii on a strangely quiet day. It was hot, enough to melt in the dusty ruins, which may have been keeping the crowds away. I spent a few hours wandering around on my own, poking my head into whatever was open, staring far too long at columns and exploring areas I hadn’t see before. One spot where I spent a lot of time was the Forum Granary, which was once the produce market of Pompeii. Today it is storage area, with tall shelves lined with amphorae, broken architectural elements, like columns and reliefs, and a few of the plaster casts made of the victims of the violent eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

It was very moving to see all these pieces of Pompeii, that at one time were part of daily life for so many people, all lined up and organized. Something about seeing these pieces damaged and fragmented made the devastation of Pompeii feel all the more real. Pompeii is always a moving experience for me, but this was one of the moments I’ll always remember.

Have you been to Pompeii? How did seeing the ruins impact you?

Tempting Tuesday: In Love with Venice by Cecil Lee

While Venice might not be geographically all that close to the Amalfi Coast, it is a place very close to my heart. The first time I traveled to Italy, I visited Venice and only Venice (with a little jaunt to see the Museo Ferrari in Maranello), and it was a memorable trip. For this week’s Tempting Tuesday, Cecil Lee, an avid traveler and photographer, tells us about his experiences visiting Venice earlier this year.

Welcome, Cecil!

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One of the cities that I love most in Italy is definitely Venice. Venice is composed of 118 small islands separating by canals. It is sited along Adriatic Sea in Northeast Italy. Not unexpectedly, it is also the most valuable island in Italy as researches tell us that Venice is sinking by 5mm each year and by the year 2050, most parts of Venice will be underwater! In fact, many parts of the city are already sunken into water and long vacant. When I was there last summer, St. Mark’s Square, the most famous landmarks in Venice, was partly flooded in the morning during high tide.

 

Venice1 Cecil Lee Photo by Cecil Lee

 

How should I describe Venice? I was stunned and amazed by the beautiful scenic view of the city when I first visited the island. The whole city is surrounded by sea and divided by canals. Naturally, the main means of transportation there is by water. Most of the great buildings are not new. They were constructed centuries ago and many of them are already partly sunken into sea water!

Tourists attractions are mainly concentrated along the main waterway, Grand Canal of Venice. Hotels, restaurants, shops and pubs are spread along it and around the Rialto Bridge. But I like to explore further into the local lifestyle, by walking away from the tourists spots without the worry of getting lost. There are always signs showing the direction back to Rialto Bridge or Piazza San Marco. Drinking coffee and eating home made pizza with Venetians in any of the local cafés and restaurants is definitely exciting and rewarding.

 

Venice2 Cecil Lee Photo by Cecil Lee

 

Of course, I love also those main tourists attractions in Venice, such as St. Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridge. Make sure you bring enough memory SD cards, because I snap, snap and snap not less than 1000 photos when I was in Venice! The sky was so blue and clear, the sunlight so bright and beautiful and my photos all turned out fantastic. Though the sun was hot, I could always cool down by eating gelato after gelato!

 

Venice3 Cecil Lee  Photo by Cecil Lee

 

Having coffee at the outdoor seating of the famous Florian coffee bar in St. Mark’s Square, listening to live violin music and witnessing the colors of the sunset in front of the historical St. Mark’s Basilica was an enchanting experience.

I love also the romantic setting all over Venice especially the gondola ride along the Grand Canal, which definitely will make your stay in Venice a memorable honeymoon trip. The environment there is perfect for falling in love, so be careful who you go to Venice with!

Whoever has seen Venice will definitely want to go back for more. I’m certainly one of them…

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Cecil Lee is an avid traveler who is also a passionate travel blogger and travel photographer living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He writes about travel for MNUI travel insurance and on his own travel photo blog, Travel Feeder.

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Have you been to Venice? What do you remember most?

Photo Friday: A Passing Glimpse of Amalfi

Ciao Amalfi View from Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi

 

Sometimes I think a partial view can be even more alluring than a total or unobstructed view. It taps into that feeling of excitement that comes from peeking through a keyhole or a garden gate into another world—perhaps forbidden—just beyond.

That’s how I felt recently when I caught this passing glimpse of Amalfi while walking among the beautiful terraces at the Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi. Located high above Amalfi in the former Convento di San Pietro della Canonica, a monastery founded in 1212, this hotel just reopened to the  public in 2009. I’ve been curious to get a look at the restoration and remodeling firsthand, and a few weeks ago that happened. I toured the hotel quickly, and then did the appropriate amount of gawking over the views of Amalfi from the terraced gardens. The whole environment, indoors and out, is decorated in a modern and restrained style very much in keeping with the origins of the building.

And the views? Let’s just say this is only a glimpse of how glorious they are!

Happy Friday!

Favorite Italian Films: La Vita è Bella

For this week’s Favorite Italian Films series, I’m pleased to welcome Cherrye Moore from My Bella Vita to share with us her favorite Italian movie … and a great language learning tip, too!

Welcome, Cherrye!

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Many multi-linguists—my Italian husband included—will tell you that watching foreign movies is vital to your language-learning success … and I believe them. My husband and I met 10 years ago and—bless his heart—a word or two of choppy English was all he could muster during our first encounter.

He’s now fluent in English and is living proof foreign films and programming can improve your knowledge of a language, so it didn’t take me long to jump on that bandwagon when I moved to Italy. I had been here only a few months and was home alone one night … no one to talk to on the phone, no must-see show on TV … no sheep waiting to be counted to lure me asleep.

Since I find it prohibitively tedious to watch English movies or TV programs that have been dubbed into Italian, I went through his personal DVD collection and selected—what would soon become—my favorite Italian movie everLa Vita è Bella.

Life is Beautiful Movie Poster

La Vita è Bella, or Life is Beautiful, as the English-language titles goes, is the story of a young Jewish-Italian man named Guido, who is portrayed by one of Italy’s most famous comics, Roberto Benigni (who also directed and co-wrote the film.) The movie has two decidedly different halves-the first distinctively Italian in its silly and playful nature-the second, serious … foreboding … heartbreaking.

At the beginning of the film, Guido arrives in Arezzo and charms his way into the life of a young, beautiful aristocrat named Dora, who is played by Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni‘s real-life wife. Throughout the first part, Guido tries to woo this wealthy woman from her well-to-do fiancé, as he struggles to open a bookstore while working at a restaurant in his uncle’s hotel.

The second part of the movie brings World War II, Germany has invaded Italy and Guido and his family find themselves prisoners in a concentration camp.

I laughed. I cried. I laughed while I cried … I cried while I laughed, I experienced a smorgasbord of emotions I never knew a film could evoke.

While I would love to continue on with a more thorough review of the film, I cannot in good faith-lest at least one of you has not seen it-tell you anything else. Part of the beauty of this movie is not knowing what will happen, whether Guido will steal Dora from her mean-spirited fiancé, what will happen to Guido and his family once they are taken prisoners. How they will make it out alive … or if they will.

Even if you don’t speak the language, I urge you to watch this film in Italian-with English subtitles, as part of the charm and Italian nuances truly are lost in translation.

Awards (as taken from Wikipedia)

The movie won the Academy Award in 1999 for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score and Best Foreign Language Film and Benigni won Best Actor for his role as Guido Orefice. The film was additionally nominated for Academy Awards for Directing, Film Editing, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Benigni’s win for Best Actor made him the second person to direct himself in an Oscar-winning performance.

Have you seen La Vita è Bella? What did you think? Were you as in love with Guido as I was throughout the film?

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Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria travel consultant living in southern Italy. She writes about travel for MNUI Travel Insurance and about traveling in Calabria on her sites, My Bella Vita, and Il Cedro B&B, the website for her bed and breakfast in Catanzaro.