Happy Anniversary, Italy.

We’re putting on a party for Italy. In Portland, Maine? You bet, we’re “All Italy, All the Time” here in Portland area June 9, 10, 11.

We’re putting on a party for Italy. In Portland, Maine? You bet, we’re “All Italy, All the Time” here in the Portland area June 9, 10, 11. Think I read someplace that over fifty percent of the households in Portland have an Italian last name. One of the great migrations touched down here years ago. We do this site from here, my wife is president of the non-profit Spannocchia Foundation outside Siena, an 1,100 acre Agri-Cultural foundation owned by a family with roots here in the area.

We just finished an Italian wine importing web site for our friend/neighbor Paul Turina who imports little-known wines from Italy including award-winning regional favorites from his family’s vineyards near Lake Garda. And some of Spannocchia’s reds. Yes, for those with extra sharp memory, Paul is the one who helped get our Vespa-based Ape! And he is the motivator behind bringing this Italian Life Expo to Portland’s waterfront. Can’t wait to share Italy with as many people as possible. The Italian Consul General from Boston is coming. Hope you will too! Save those days in June.

You may have heard, Italy’s turning 150 this year, thanks to a guy named Garibaldi. Before him, and his Risorgimento, Italy was not a country but a collection of city-states, plus whatever the Vatican owned that week.

All the talk about Italy’s 150th made us remember something extra special we found in our falling down, abandoned house in Italy pre-reno. When I say “we” I mean my eagled-eyed wife. When I say “house,” I’m talking about a true ruin with hardly any glass in its windows, a few rare doors still on hinges, gaping holes in the roof, you could see out of the tall wobbly house through cracks in walls running from foundation to roof line, rooms with dirt for floors. All completely occupied. By feral cats. And generations of pigeons. Somewhere in that haystack of junk and debris, she spotted a folded up piece of paper. Which she unfolded. And unfolded. And unfolded it a time or two more. To reveal the signed and sealed discharge papers of one of Garibaldi’s Appenini soldiers. (It is a nice, big ceremonial size: 14 inches wide and more than 18 inches tall.)

In honor of Italy’s anniversary, we’ve had it framed and hung in a way that it can be read from both sides. You see it did double duty. Because when it was folded up pocket size, back side became your passport. And was duly stamped by the police in Bologna and other city-states as the warrior wound his way back to Umbria from the northern front. It also appears this document was what certified your eligibility for a pension. So it was more than just a pretty piece of paper. It really was a working document. To think of this piece of Italy’s history, our home’s history, lasting all these years and then being unceremoniously consigned to a pile of trash. That was close. It seems to be on really fine paper and is in surprisingly good shape. And we aim to keep it that way. We’re glad we could help it live to see this milestone.

Got our tickets in hand for mid March arrival in Umbria.

See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

Italy vs Spain? In BA, the Spanish sounds very Italian. Can we call it Italianish?

In Buenos Aires, Italian is better than no Spanish at all. Thank you Years of Italian Lessons, thank you. Oh my. Italian as a portable skill? Who would have thought?


We had a trip that carried us from Miami to Buenos Aires and Uruguay. What an amazing adventure that was. Did you know it is full blown summer down there in the middle of “our” winter? Something about being South of the equator. So, we were glad to be chasing that kind of weather. On the other hand we were mildly nervous about our lack of language skills there. But, you know what? Italian is better than no Spanish at all. Seriously, I know nadda in Spanish. Or so I thought. But I found myself asking where the eggs were at the buffet in the hotel (the waitress said “Sto preparando”), ordering coffee with sugar, asking our waiter for a new white wine from the Salta region, translating things people handed us on the streets. A lot of things were so close to Italian, so in the right context and so blatantly obvious that we learned them on first exposure. (felt like we did!) Whatever we were doing, it was working! It was a total lark. Thank you Years of Italian Lessons, thank you. Oh my. Italian as a portable skill? Who would have thought? Spanish is so omnipresent in the world, and Italian is so Italo-centric. Is that a word? Chi lo sai.

Now, I can be on record as knowing nothing about nothing. Especially, all things linguistic. And maybe because BA has a huge percentage of people of Italian origin, maybe because of that their inflections are Italian. Every Argentinian we met had AT LEAST one grandparent directly from Italy. Che sorpresa. And just maybe I’d be at a total loss in downtown Madrid. But, on the other hand, Italian was as helpful in Miami’s Little Havana as it was in BA. BTW, having hot hot espresso leaning on the outdoor counter with the cool, cool Cubanos at Cafe Versailles? Worth the trip. That is a serious cup o Jose. Doing this back and forth language dance was fun, like a 24 hour word game. And as eye-opening as that Cuban coffee. Could not have been more pleased that our Italian at least cracked open the door to the Spanish-speaking world. In ways I would never have imagined.

Spanish/Italian points of similarity right off the top of my head:
Nadda / niente, Permesso /Permesso, puerto / porto, la cuenta, il conto, agua minerale / acqua minerale, con gas / con gas, sin gas / senza gas, azucar / zucchero, bueno / buono, oltre / altre. Should I go on? Everyone says ciao and ok, ok?

Next month we’re off to where they really speak Italian: Umbria!

See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

thinking italian, speaking spanish. trying in ArgentinaPS: But seriously folks, where has the blog been? What can I say? Wandered off muttering to myself? Instead of putting my mutterings on electronic paper? I wasn’t sure if anyone was out there listening or if I was actually talking to myself. A lady from England wrote this morning and said she hadn’t seen any blogs lately and asked if I was OK. Sort of made me put my feet back on the road. We’ll see where it goes. Good intentions and all that. We’ll be in Italy in a few weeks so that will be a good test.