Friday, June 30, 2006

Coming Home From Italy

Hi All,

I have just returned from ten very hot days in La Bell'Italia with just one week to go before we hit the airwaves with a whole new line-up of weekday shows starting on Monday, July 10. Just to whet your appetite, we'll begin with two programs about Africa, one from the perspective of African Americans returning to their homeland, and another with veteran PBS reporter Charlayne Hunter- Gault. We'll also talk about a newly unearthed diary that was kept by a North Vietnamese woman doctor during the war, and All About Food makes its international comeback with a debut program about ice cream on Friday, July 14. Remember, the new program time is 3:00 to 4:00pm central time weekday afternoons, repeated at 9:00pmCT at night. More news to come about all of the above. And, by the way, if any of you have any suggestions about guests, music, or sound clips we might use in any of these programs, please let us know about them. We really aim to make this new version of Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders to be truly collaborative.

Now, about Italy. This was my eighth trip to the country of my ancestry. I once lived in Rome, in a modest little apartment above a horse stable in Trastevere. For years, I didn't want to go back because it was too painful to return as a tourist to a place that had once felt like home, even if that was an illusion. But for some reason this trip was different. I found myself without intending it, right in the middle of many of my old favorite haunts, and this time I didn't cry, bringing a new sense of self into ancient places that were themselves changed over time. I met my son in Piazza Navona, looking like Don Quixote all dressed in white and walking tall beside his round little friend, Pino, fat as a squire. I bumped into my first husband in Campo dei Fiori, where we had our first date decades ago, and, miraculously, we all went together to a little trattoria just off the Campo where we ate splendidly like Romans for three hours. Great food is always healing.

We went to Bologna, expecting to sample the lasagne, but it was just too hot to eat anything that heavy, so we found our way to a cafeteria at the University and ate a plate of grilled vegetables while watching the soccer match between Italy and Argentina. In Parma, we visited the Museum of Prosciutto where, much to our dismay, there wan't any prosciutto to eat at all and we built up such a fantastic craving for the stuff that we devoured it in mass quantities as soon as we could make our way to a trattoria.

We ended our trip in Cinque Terre, a chain of five former fishing villages on the nothwest coast that are all linked together by footpaths, a charming place and very beautiful, the little towns all perched like eyries in the rocks. It was hot there too, hot and muggy, but I managed, in spite of the heat, to hot foot it all the way from Monterosso to Riomaggiore on the first day, missing only one link in the chain of five. It was in Monterosso that the famous Italian poet, Eugenio Montale, once lived, and there are little plaques with quotes from his poems lining the walks that lead up to a Cappuchin Chapel where there is a statue of St. Francis taming the wolf. On our last day, I ate Tagliolini Neri for lunch, an exquisite pasta made seppia noodles, shrimp, zucchini, fresh tomatoes and oranges. I asked the chef for the recipe but he wouldn't give it away. You'll just have to go and see for yourselves.

Enough. Oh, yes, while waiting for our connection in Milano, we watched Popeye cartoons in Italian - hilarious - Olive Oil calls Popeye "Braccia di Ferro" which means Iron Arms.


Gina said...

Jean, I love your blog! the descriptions of the places you went, and the food (especially) are so much fun to read! I can't wait to see some of the pictures! and I am very excited to hear about the Friday shows, All About Food. I hope you will continue to include conversation about food in your blog!

Jodi said...

After being a decade-long fan (via WPR), it is so nice to finally experience you through the blog-world.

Thank you for sharing.

maria said...

Looooove your show Jean.

You are a breath of fresh air
in this mad world of ours.

My faves are the ones with
subjets like: bikes for Africa,
Beatrice and the goat,radios for
africans and all similar topics.

Keep up the excellent work.

By the way I love your voice too.