Italian plums

Sweating under the hot Italian sun in ski socks, hiking boots and my husband’s giant Levi’s, it hit me how preposterous it was that I moved any of my stillettos to our new house.

The reason for my get-up was this: ortica aka stinging nettles.  The plum tree is surrounded by them, and I’m here to harvest the plums.  My thoughtful husband insisted I pull on his work jeans for full coverage against the thigh-high nettles that fully carpet this part of the garden.  He told me I wouldn’t need socks since his man-sized work jeans pooled over my hiking boots, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

The tree was full of greenish-tinted yellow fruit the shape of chicken eggs.  Standing on my tip toes to tug one from the branches, I realized they were more ripe than I first thought.  When I rubbed my thumb over the skin, the polished peel gleamed translucent gold, barely green at all.  Fabio said the barely-green ones would ripen off the tree.  I pulled down two more.

Staring through the craggy plum branches, our garden in July was a marvel to me.  Overgrown from every angle.  The rosemary bush had sprouted 50 outstretched arms from its trimmed winter shape and the steep carved terraces blended into one hillside with swaying grasses, weeds and wild flowers.

Although I’ve talked about it before, I don’t think I truly understood something until this last visit.  It hit me as I was picking the plums, trying to reconcile the beauty of the lake view with the prickery, knee-high ortica with sweat running down my shoulders.  Moving from the cement-covered, elbow-bashing island of Manhattan to outskirts of a small village in the foothills of the Alps was really going to be a massive change to something very different.  Holy crap.

I jumped to grab another branch for its dangly ripe plum.  Early next spring, Fabio says we’ll pick the baby ortica before they develop their stingers to make ravioli with ricotta and parmigiano reggiano.  It’s part fairy tale and part hard work.  I can’t wait for it to be 100% reality.

Some Jersey Craigslist peeps hauled away my giant bedroom dresser in their mini van yesterday evening.  Despite the past month’s crazy Craigslist/eBay selling frenzy, this is the first time I really feel like I’m moving.

I splurged on the 10-drawer cherry wood  monster years ago, intending it to be a life-long heirloom.  It was the only piece of furniture I was considering bringing to Italy, until I educated myself on the eye-bulging international shipping costs.

As I watched the NJ folks carry my favorite piece of furniture out of the apartment, I felt a hole in my stomach.   Ugh, it was really going.  But after a slight pause, I was whooping.  Yeah – I’m really moving!

Over the past couple months, I’ve downsized my moving scope from a full bedroom-sized freighter container to checked luggage and a couple FedEx boxes.  How often do people get this opportunity to start over?  To voluntarily free themselves from material stuff.  I just feel lucky… 

Plus I’m going shopping for our new bedroom dresser in Milan next month with the proceeds from my old dresser.  Yeah, baby, yeah!

PS  George, I’m keeping my relationships in the backpack.  No fugly import or shipping fees for those.  Thank you facebook, gmail and skype.  xo

I applied for my spousal Visa last Monday at the Italian Consulate.  Tiny cluster. 

The Italian Consultate NYC branch is stately building on Park Avenue.  When you walk inside, you truly feel as if you’ve been transported onto Italian soil.  The first time Fabio and I went there, I thought he might hunker down and press his lips.  

However, the Alice in Wonderland front doors are not where you enter as a foreigner applying for an Italian visa.  Instead, please go outside and around the corner to the basement.

– The eye candy: true building bowels decorated with barbed wire entrance, bullet-proof-glassed cubicles, and 1950s cafeteria chairs

– The populace: many students trying to get visas for summer school in Florence and Rome; other non-Italian randoms trying for work permits

– The soundtrack: loud yelling in thick Italian accents

I was a little scared.  Visa applicants with numbers called before mine didn’t have the right paperwork – as indicated by the yelling.  Luckily, the loud Italians were incredibly kind to me – probably because I married an Italian citizen and want to live in their country forever.  At first, they were unable to locate the marriage registration…which resulted in some terse tones but no raised voices.  Frightened into over-preparedness, I had brought an extra copy. 

My visa will be ready tomorrow… after which, I can live and work in Italy – but most importantly, I can stay with my honey. 

I just can’t wait.

I’m often not clear on what’s around the corner…  One day, I think my garden dreams will revolve around asparagus, the next, I’m researching egg laying ducks and their predators.

My adorable brand new husband is wearing me down on the asparagus bed…my dream of having my own freaking plot of asparagus is being tested.  It started with the fact that unless we want to make digging the plot a full-time job or somehow magically train our garden gnome to dig it for us (not likely, he is not very burly, photo below), we will need to hire an expensive machine digger. 

Then this spring, my babe planted some new pretty flowering plants… in my future asparagus bed.  I’m totally being pawned.  He’s not telling me I can’t have my asparagus bed, but making it nearly impossible for me to get it. 

Perhaps I need someone to force me out of attempting to dig a  50-foot long x 3-foot wide x 1.5-foot deep trench on a rocky mountain hillside.  I’m slowly accepting that I can’t have the bed… this year.

The asparagus fantasy has also been a bit usurped by another exciting daydream: ducks that lay eggs in our back yard!  Ever since I learned that I can eat duck eggs, make duck egg ravioli, and bake duck egg cakes – despite my chicken egg allergy – I’ve been obsessed with the idea of quacking ducks popping out eggs for us in our back garden.  My bright turquoise Guide to Raising Ducks book is staring at me from my bookshelf in anticipation.  I’ve already read it cover to cover…twice.  



I’m happy to share the news that we’ve eloped!!  The ceremony was brief & emotional (that’s me) at Manhattan’s City Hall, followed by a street vendor pretzel snack and walk across our favorite bridge to the cheers and congrats from other bridge walkers. 

Our wedding day was laid back, fairy tale perfect…an NYC fairy tale.  Sunny, blue sky, warm April tax day.  We started planning a week in advance and picked the date by the weather forecast and availability of the photographer.  My groom was sexy as hell in his suit.  How much do I love him for picking out a new tie to match my Armani dress without me having to ask?  Shush you – I’m not label dropping, the Armani was my shout out to Italy on our all-American day.


Possibly even bigger news…the day of our wedding, Fabio accepted a job in Italy.  We’re moving to Italy.  One more time for emphasis in all caps…WE’RE MOVING TO ITALY!

Have you ever wanted something so badly, for a long time, and then when you get it, you hardly know what to do with yourself?  That’s kind of how the past 3 weeks have been since the wedding.  A lot of ‘ohmygodohmygodohmygod’  in my head, breath holding and wheels turning.  There are a lot of fish to fry.

I thought I knew how much logistical contortion the international move would take, but my knowledge was really a teaspoon of salt water compared to the oceans of what need to get done.  Luckily, my sweet new husband was detained due to the Icelandic volcano for an extra week of ‘honeymoon’ AKA running-all-over-NYC-to-various-government-buildings with his new wife.  Step 1 complete: marriage is registered in Italy.  Super excited.

Steps 2 through 842: to be completed.  There is a lot to do.  Passports to be renewed, visa interviews with the Italian Consulate, contents of entire apartments to sell… Okay, there aren’t really 842 steps.  That’s our lucky number from the City Hall ceremony!  They give you a ticket like at the meat counter and when it’s called, the happy couple gets married.

I blissfully digress and I’m just going to keep digressing.  We closed the our wedding day with a quiet champagne toast and dinner under the Brooklyn Bridge, the city lights gradually popping on across the river.  The wait was so worth it.  


I wrote a blog update last week, stepped away from my computer for a couple hours, and it all disappeared.  I’ve been so bitter at my computer that it’s taken me a week to rewrite.  Mature, oui?

So here’s what happened!  Since that dramatic omg-we-might-move-to-California blog post, Fabio was denied the LA job.  Mixed feelings of yay!! and oh crap.  Admittedly, I was mostly relieved.

He then got a 6-week contract in Milan – and several interviews in Milan for real, full-time jobs.  He is there now – working!  (Again – yay!)  We are waiting to hear about the permanent jobs.  Spring is in the air and I am cautiously optomistic about absolutely everything.

Maybe we really will be in Italy to tend to our giardino this year.  Here’s a glimpse of what’ll be on our plates and in our bellies if we do…



kiwi plants

Last month there were 2 mufloni in the garden of Blevio’s mayor, eating the mayor’s lettuce.  Blevio is the village where our house is in Italy.  Mufloni seem to be some kind of Italian mountain goat.  There are many reasons we have a fence around our yard, but I didn’t know this was one of them…


One of my favorite stories from 2009 involves the wild animals around Blevio.  After Christmas, Fabio and I decided to have the nephews, Luca (age 8 ) and Stefano (age 6), over for a sleepover. 

The grand finale of the sleepover adventure was to hike them up the old Roman cobblestone road that runs behind the house and up the mountain.  We had never explored the walk and always wanted to.

The nephews required more incentive.  Fabio explained that we would be “hunting cinghiale“… wild boar.

This sounded far-fetched to my mother, but there are definitely wild boar in the woods behind our house.  Last summer, one determined boar broke through our fence and rooted up some new plantings.  Just for fun, I imagine.  The gardener and chingiale had a stare down, then it trotted off into the woods.

So back to this cold day after Christmas…  The sun was taking its time coming over the mountain and we were getting bundled up to go outdoors.  As I was squashing Stefano’s hat over his blonde head, with wide blue eyes, he whispered “Potremmo morire?” 

I only understand about 50% of what this nephews say.  Thank goodness I understood this.  “No.”  I laughed.  We were not going to die hunting wild boar on our walk this morning.

Stefano clearly didn’t believe me.  Walking up the steep cobblestone path, he was amassing a collection of sticks and rocks to defend us.  I volunteered to carry some of the stick-spears, since he was barely moving forward under the weight of some of the stones.

We saw deer and bunny tracks, summer cabins, and snow, but never a whiff of a boar.  Stefano was foot stompingly upset about this on the walk back.  Fabio took it as the opportunity to teach a lesson.  “Hunting chingiale isn’t like going to the supermarket, Stefano.  You can’t just order one or pick it up of the shelf.”  Pazienza.