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Italy Roundtable: The Rush of the Strange and Unfamiliar

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This month’s Italy Roundtable topic “foreign” brought in a host of interesting topics from the group – all thoughtful, reflective and informative. Be sure to check them all out at the links below! While I am a foreigner living in Italy, there’s another aspect of the word “foreign” that has been rattling around in the back of my mind this week. The secondary meaning of the word is listed as “strange and unfamiliar.” Dictionary example: “I suppose this all feels pretty foreign to you.” Now that sounds about right! It got me thinking. When was the last time you experienced something foreign? There’s a thrill that comes from the strange and unfamiliar. It means stepping out of your comfort zone, whatever the experience might be.

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I don’t know about you, but I thrive in the strange and unfamiliar. Not that I go in search of it. I’m certainly not an adventure seeking sort of person. Perhaps more of the sort that enjoys finding the adventure in everyday life. Whatever it is, I find that I am the happiest when I have quite literally no idea what I’m doing. It probably started with when I fell in love with studying ancient Greek in college. That was remarkable. Then there was that time I was a data analyst for Fannie Mae. (Seriously.) Or when I decided to study art history in graduate school and called up my mom to ask, “Hey, Mom, so I have to include a research paper with my application. What’s a research paper?” Then there was the time 10 years ago when I moved to Italy without speaking any Italian. Or when I started freelance writing and editing. The land of “strange and unfamiliar” is my home.

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So why the wisteria? Well it’s pretty. Besides that, it represents a moment I had recently that reminded me how important those strange and the unfamiliar moments are in our lives. Sure a trip to a new country around the world is exciting, but how can you get out of your comfort zone right now, right where you’re at? When I went to Positano earlier this month to see the wisteria, I decided to make some video clips so I could start learning how to use iMovie. It may have taken me a few weeks to finish that video, but when I uploaded it to YouTube yesterday, I had a rush. There it was. Something strange and unfamiliar. I have quite literally no idea how to make movies, and yet there I go putting one out to the world to see. It’s nothing special. I have a lot to learn. But what is special is that incredible experience of doing something strange and unfamiliar!

Go out and try something foreign this week – a new restaurant, a new drink at your local coffee shop, a new way to drive to work, a new genre that you usually don’t read, a new craft, a new recipe, a different type of creative endeavor. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. Let me know how it felt to experience something foreign!

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

Italy Roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Foreign – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

ArtTravRefugees in Tuscany: New Book Questions Preconceptions

At Home in TuscanyForeigners in Tuscany

Italy ExplainedThe 5 Letters of the Alphabet Banned by Mussolini

Girl in Florence50 Shades of “Foreign” in Florence, Italy

ItalofileFrom Foreign Language to Lingua Franca: Italian Immersion Programs in Italy

 

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Is This Your Cat?

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From the moment I met our cat Toulouse, it has been an adventure. This furry little guy arrived one Monday morning three and a half years ago, when someone buzzed at our gate and asked, “Is this your cat?” When I looked at the orange and white fuzzball with impossibly big ears, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t very many hours before the adventure began, when this little kitten was attacked in front of our eyes by another cat and left for dead. We rushed him to the vet and I helped nurse him back to life. You can read all about that adventurous Monday here.

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It took some time for Toulouse to get his name. But to give you an idea of his playful nature, his first nickname was “Bitey McBite.” While it took awhile for just the right name to arrive, it took no time at all for him to work his way into our hearts. This little nutcase has been non stop craziness and fun since he could get around again. He is my constant companion and writing buddy. He makes me laugh so many times every time. He brought a smile to my face during some very tough times over the last few years. How could you not laugh at a kitten hiding inside fruit bag?

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Toulouse recovered well in all areas, except one of his front legs. He had suffered too much nerve damage to that leg and couldn’t move it much. So after having him for about 6 months, we made the big decision to have that leg amputated. And boy was he brave! I shared about that story here. Although in retrospect, I think the whole adventure was more traumatizing for us than for him. He never looked back … and has been rocking three legs ever since!

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We’ve had more adventures along the way with Toulouse (look up “twitchy cat syndrome” sometime if you’re truly bored), but I couldn’t image our life without this cat. And even though he sometimes gets annoyed with Toulouse, I suspect his big brother Puffy feels the same way.

Puffy and Toulouse

So now, after three and a half years and many adventures, I can answer with certainty, “Yes, that is my cat!”

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Animals definitely have a way of coming into our lives in unexpected ways. How have pets changed your life? I’d love to hear your stories!

 

 

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

italy-blogging-roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Pets – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

BrigolanteOf Dogs and Death

Italy ExplainedCaesar’s Cats

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Happy New Year from Amalfi!

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Happy New Year! I hope your holiday weekend was full of excitement and a good dose of relaxation, too. The new year always starts off with a bang in Amalfi thanks to the incredible fireworks display over the harbor. I thought you would all enjoy watching this beautiful video of the show this year by Amalfi based photographer Andrea Lucibello. It’s a bit slow to start, but it’s fun to watch the whole town light up in different colors when the big fireworks start going off. You won’t want want to miss the grand finale!

My holiday weekend was spent close to home since one of our cats is very sick. But how many places in the world would you find a vet who would make a special visit to his studio on New Year’s Eve and also New Year’s Day? We’re grateful to know one such vet on the Amalfi Coast! Even though I’ve been home a lot, there was festivity in the air with church bells ringing, fireworks and, of course, the local Capodanno bands. (Capodanno means New Year’s.) These bands make A LOT of noise. So much noise that you can hear them from the next town over sometimes!

These bands are a local tradition that spills over the mountains from Naples. They are a ton of fun to watch, especially when you take a close look at all the homemade instruments. In the video below of the Capodanno band in Amalfi, you can see all the instruments as they pass by. So much fun!

Wishing you a fun start to 2017!

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Grazie Mille … For a Great Year at Ciao Amalfi!

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As we prepare to celebrate the end of the year, I want to take a moment to say thank you to each and every one of you. Your support of Ciao Amalfi has meant so much to me this year, and your comments, likes, shares and kind words have been such an inspiration. Together we have created an amazing community of people around the world bound together by a love of the Amalfi Coast. Thank you for being a part of this growing community and for all the time you have spent with Ciao Amalfi!

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And a very special thank you for once again nominating Ciao Amalfi for Italy Magazine’s Blogger Awards! I was honored to be short listed in the Best Living in Italy Blog category. A huge shout out and extra thank you to everyone who voted for Ciao Amalfi! I love sharing about life on the Amalfi Coast, so it is always an honor to know that travelers around the world find it helpful and enjoyable.

Many congratulations to all the winners and especially my dear friend Michelle from Bleeding Espresso who won our category Best Living in Italy Blog. As the blog that has inspired and helped me the most over the years as I have adjusted to living in Italy, I couldn’t think of a better person to win than Michelle!

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Wishing you a peaceful New Year’s and wonderful 2017! I look forward to seeing you in the new year with lots more Amalfi Coast magic to share!

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Finding Home on the Amalfi Coast

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When my mother first set foot in Amalfi’s main piazza and stood gazing up at the Duomo of Amalfi, something deep inside her said, “Home.” It was strong, clear and visceral. She didn’t tell me this story until many years later, long after I had moved to the Amalfi Coast.

My first experience with Amalfi, while not quite so succinct, was just as powerful. It was as a result of my mother’s immediate connection, since I tagged along on her subsequent trip to the Amalfi Coast. The emotions that flooded over me that first time I set foot in Amalfi were overwhelming. Later that day, in late February 2007, I found myself in the hotel room in Vietri sul Mare trying to make sense of it all in my journal. I wrote that when I stepped off the bus and looked up the mountainside at the colorful buildings and the watchtower above, that I had felt so intensely that this would be an important place in my life.

And now it is my home.

Have you experienced that before? That odd yet extremely familiar feeling of finding home in a place you’ve never been before? If you have, you know just what I mean.

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And if my mother and I both falling for Amalfi immediately at different times wasn’t enough, there’s more to this story. When I stepped off that bus in 2007 and knew instinctively that Amalfi would be an important place, I had no clue that my tour guide that day—now my husband—was born and raised in Amalfi. How’s that for destiny?

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Nearly ten years later, I still have moments when I marvel at this place I call home. Travelers come from around the world and fall in love with the Amalfi Coast. Perhaps with the pastel cascade that is Positano or with the dreamy views from Ravello. Or like me and my mother with Amalfi. There’s some reassuring about know that around the world there are countless kindred spirits who have been here—or simply dreamed of being here—and have felt that deep connection with the Amalfi Coast.

What can I say? When your heart says home, you have found your place.

 

Italy Blogging Roundtable

italy-blogging-roundtable
This blog post is part of a series called The Italy Blogging Roundtable. Every month our group of Italy based writers takes on a new theme, and you can read the contributions for this month’s topic – Home – at the links below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please share the stores if you’ve enjoyed them!

Bleeding EspressoChristmas in Calabria: Home for the Holidays

BrigolanteThe Humble Art of the Nativity Crèche in Umbria

Italy ExplainedYou’ve Been Gone So Long (On Leaving Home & Finding Ancestral Roots)