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December 2, 2011     Post-Gazette
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December 2, 2011

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"POST-GA C:TTE 1DE 'i=I Eh by John Christoforo ) aFtFt6t Babb nonno Last week, I left off saying a couple of prayers as Sal Meli and I drove down a mountain road in Calabria, passing through a thunder- storm. We finally reached Reggio, which had been our first destination on the mainland of Italy. We then headed north and stopped at a few Sites along the way. When we arrived at Salerno, we stopped for the night. Sal looked around and said, "Check out the archi- tecture. The first few streets in from the water are all modern. Beyond those ten blocks or so, the buildings went back to the middle ages." I looked at what he pointed out and he was right. I immediately knew the answer to the change in design. Salerno was one of the major battles for Ameri- can troops when they finally landed on the Italian main- land during WWII. Most of Salerno's waterfront was wiped out by shells from our ships and bombs from American aircraft. I enjoyed the sites of the city, old and new. We later checked into a pensione, an inexpensive hotel that had attached bathrooms with their rooms. Someone rec- ommended a trattoria, a fam- ~ily style restaurant where the locals eat. We weren't disappointed. The next day, we headed north again along the Amalfi Coast to Amalfi and Sorrento. They were beautiful resort cities and filled with tourists from many of the European countries. We were walking down the main street along the beach and I was stopped by a young man with a Berlitz phrase book in his hand. He was trying to ask me something in Italian and I had no idea what he was trying to say. I saw that the book was English/Italian and I asked him if he wanted to switch to English. He replied, "I bloody well would like to. I have no chance with my Italian pronunciation." He then asked if I knew the whereabouts of a sidewalk caf6. When he named it, I re- membered having seen it a couple of blocks away. He said, "I'm supposed to meet a couple of chaps there and got lost." I was going to point to where the place was located and then heard a commotion and saw Sal get himself into trouble. There were several people walking toward us: a beauty in a bikini, followed by a woman with a poodle on a leash, followed by a nanny pushing a baby carriage, fol- lowed by an African eating an ice cream cone. Sal was walking toward them, and as the beauty in the bikini passed him, he turned to check out whether the back was as attractive as the front, if you get my drift. He, as a "result of not paying at- A Nostalgic Remembrance i iii IH. IIIIII IIIIII. II became snagged in the leash. To avoid the problem the owner stopped and then back peddled, but bumped into the baby carriage. The nanny, to protect the child, back peddled, but bumped into the African who was about to lick his ice cream cone. As she bumped the man, the cone managed to smear itself all ovei- the man's face. It looked like a Three Stooges comedy. The young Englishman and I be- gan to laugh, but the African became furious, as did the nanny and the dog owner. The girl in the bikini began to laugh as the three people involved in the may lay all began screaming at Sal in various languages. He tried to explain his way out of the situation in both English and Italian, but to no avail. If it wasn't for the bikini lady, the Englishman and I laughing so hard, I think they would have killed Sal. I yelled to him to move on before he became a statis- tic, He walked away with them still yelling. At that point, the Englishman asked me if all Yanks were like Sal. I answered, "No, he's one of a kind." At the invitation of the Englishman, we joined him at the caf6 where his pals told him they would meet. Over dishes of granita (slush) and ice cream, Sal tried to explain his way out of the comedy. The Brits had to wait until their friend who invited us explained the situation in British English. They then laughed with me. All of the Englishmen were from London and on holiday, as they call a vacation. None had ever been to the states and had a million questions about places like New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. I gave them a ver- bal tour of America and they seemed fascinated. They were most interested in Boston as they asked about the American Revolution. In school, they Were given a different slant on our his- tory as a break-away colony than we receive in the states. I even threw in the story of Aunt Dorothy's fam- ily. Aunt Dorothy was Uncle Nick's second wife. Seeing he was my Godfather, I spent a lot of time with them. It seems that Aunt Dorothy's family went back to before the Revolution. When the fighting started, they were loyalists, faithful to the Brit- ish crown. After the war was over and we won, they had to run for their lives. Not being able to get back to England, they headed for Canada. They returned to Boston two generations later, but th.ey had another problem. They had converted to Catholi- cism while in Canada, a problem in early America except in Maryland. The Brits were fascinated with the stories I told and we tention to his direction, wound up spending the en- tripped over the poodle" and" '" tire day theml Whenwe parted, Sal gave them an itinerary to follow as they were heading north. That night at dinner, we planned out our time frame.' The next day, we had to be at the Naples airport. A close friend from Medford by way of Havana, Jose, and his wife were flying in from Boston and we were going to pick them up when their flight got in. Jose's wife, Franny, was born in Cassino, and we were going to visit the mem- bers of her family that didn't immigrate to the states after the war. The next day, we drove to Naples and waited for their flight from Boston to arrive. Once we were all together, we stopped at a tourist office to find accommodations in or near Naples. The first place they showed us was a small hotel near a factory that made machinery. The noise coming from the open doors of the factory was deaf- ening, but the biggest turn- off was one of the rooms they showed us. There was a mo- tor cycle parked next to one of the beds. We wound up at another hotel that was on the waterfront and more expensive. With a woman along, we didn't want to rough it. Once we were settled in, we looked at a map of the city and headed out to see the sites. At lunch time, we stopped at a place that looked like a. restaurant where the locals ate. We were right and the food was fantastic and inexpensive. I noticed an old man sitting at a table by himself. If you've ever seen the label on a bottle of Mor- etti, a popular Italian beer, you would know what the old man looked like. He had on a neckerchief and a tattered hat. When they brought him a glass of wine, they poured it in a beer mug. When the old man took a sip, I under- stood why. He was quite old and his hands weren't too steady. The mug had a handle and it was easy for the old man to hold it. When he sipped the wine, his mouth seemed to cover the entire top of the mug. He evidently had no teeth. He was a character study that an artist would have loved to paint. Before we turned in that night, I called home to let everyone know where I was. Babbononno answered, and when I told him where we were, he warned me about the dangers of Naples. I told him not to worry and then spoke to my folks for a bit. They were happy that we were OK; and I'm out of space again, and will continue next week. GOD BLESS AMERICA The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9) "La Cage aux Folles" starring George Hamilton, center, plays from Dec 6-18 at the Shubert Theatre, Boston. Call 866-523-7469 or visit for tickets and more information. (Photo by Paul Kolnik) one of the team who worked with Kerry at AOL's Digital City Boston. While Kerry wrote about beer, this columnist wrote about gar- dening. Under the direction of the lovely Susan Dupont and the handsome Peter McNamara, others in the fun group, called "Boston's Inner Circle" or BIC, included R.J. Donovan (theater), Sandy Block (wine), and Jay Calderin (fashion) -- to name but a few. The good old days! ....... This year, "First Night Boston" celebrates the 36t" edition of the country's oldest and largest New Year's Eve arts festival by announc- ing a line-up of world class events that offer something for everyone. On Saturday, December 31 from noon to midnight, First Night presents its annual day-long festival of art, music, dance, ice sculpture, and more. First Night will showcase 1,000 artists in 200 exhibitions and per- formances in locations all over downtown Boston, from the Waterfront to the Fenway. First Night welcomes chil- dren, families and revelers of all ages to celebrate community through the arts. First Night organizers strongly suggest visiting the interactive planner at to plan at- tendance. The schedule is subject to change and up- dates can be found on the website. All First Night .outdoor events are free, though sup- ported by sales of the First Night button, which is the ticket for admission to in- door events. In addition, some cultural partners offer a "Button Bonus" program, including free admission on December 31, and discounts before and after First Night. Buttons will be available at dozens of locations, including Shaw's Super- markets, Star Market, Tedeschi's, and Au Bon Pain. Buttons are also available now at a special web price at only through December 22. For further information, call 617-542-1399 or visit, Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda Morrill's gardening Web site, In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire. services, etc.) Fully Insured Lic #017936 Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 kenskjs @ On Sale NowI THE NORTH END Where It All Began The Way It Was by Fred Langone SALE PRICE $19.95 Plus Shipping & Handling On Site at The Post-Gazette 5 Prince Street, North End, Boston, MA