Thursday, August 30, 2012

Andare in Vacanza

by Graziella Pacini Buonanno

I just spent three weeks in Tuscany, Italy, visiting my sister Mary Angela.  Her house, elegant and immaculately kept, is about a seven-minute drive from lovely Viareggio, a seaside resort in the province of Lucca.

As my sister and her husband, Atos, had promised my daughters, they took excellent care of me. They provided a relaxing and loving atmosphere; AC at home and in the car; a low-sodium, healthy diet; local produce; fresh fish; and baked especially for me, no-salt, whole-wheat, crusty rolls for a delicious breakfast with my favorite, creamy cheese called stracchino. The smell of espresso woke me every morning, and I found the table set and breakfast waiting for me.

The one thing no one can control, of course, is the weather…it was an unusually scorching hot summer, with tropical humidity and no rain at all. I felt sorry for the tourists sweltering in our big cities.

Every morning by 9:30 a.m. we headed for the beach. We took a thirty-minute walk along the shore, followed by a swim under the watchful eye of our bagnino or lifeguard, and finally rested on a lounge, in the shade of our umbrella.
Grace (left) and her sister at the beach in Viareggio

I read my book (To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neil MD), or talked to M.A., Atos, and to Fiorenza, a lady who’s become a dear friend, after years of sharing the same umbrella next to ours, near the water's edge.

Our reading/talking was periodically interrupted by seasonal peddlers from various parts of Africa. We recognize some of them, for they return every year. We know the quality of their wares, (table linens, sundresses, jewelry, etc) and even their family histories.

At noon, we go home. M.A. and I get busy fixing lunch - pasta for Atos, or rice primavera, or gazpacho, or chef salad, or some fish fillet, etc. We do the dishes, shower, and after watching the Olympics, I’m off to my room for a siesta.

Some afternoons, due to the heat, Atos declined to meet with his childhood friends for a game of cards called briscola, and opted to stay home to watch television in the comfort of his living room.  He always wanted Mary by his side, they behaved like two teenagers in love, though they’ve been married forty-eight years.

After dinner, by 9:00 or 9:30, some nights we went to festivals (sagras) in nearby villages, where we enjoyed local specialties, played BINGO, or danced the night away under the stars. Many people on vacation, went earlier to the sagras to eat dinner there - delicious, inexpensive food prepared by volunteers, to raise money for their village programs (sports equipment for kids, seniors’ outings, ambulance service, etc).
Grace's favorite meal

I made time to visit friends and relatives too, and as usual, these encounters filled me with bittersweet, nostalgic memories, leaving me aching for the loved ones who are gone.

 I felt rejuvenated in the sincere embrace of my best-in-the-world friend. I, rejoicing in her art (paintings) exhibit; she, rejoicing in my picture book. “But why isn’t it in Italian? Yet?" she asked. “It ought to be, to become a success in Italy!”

 I had no answer. “It’s complicated.” I said. “ Maybe...some day… I hope.”

It is complicated. I felt at home, but I am glad to be back in the USA, my chosen home.


  1. Welcome home, Graziella! Sounds as though you had a delightful vacation, in spite of the weather. Family & friends, good food, time to read. What could be better?

  2. I have fond memories of Italian beaches. It always amused me that the country shuts down in August and EVERYONE goes to the beach. It makes perfect sense that you get to be friendly with the other sunbathers and the African peddlers. Oh,and those sagras! Every village has one and everyone's so happy! And, of course, all this is done surrounded by the freshest, bestest, food and wine! Now you're fully rejuvenated and ready to write, right?