Tomorrow is the Epiphany, a legal holiday in Italy. But, thanks to Italian folklore, this holiday is more than likely called ‘La Befana’ by most people. The Befana, an old lady who flies on a broom the night between the 5th and 6th of January, brings gifts to good children and pieces of coal (sugar) to those that weren’t quite so good.
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Unique to Agnone, in alto Molise, this winter festival of fire is celebrated on the 8th of December and on the 24th. La “Ndocciatta is believed to have originated during the Samnite era (one of the pre-Roman Italici tribes finally subdued by the Romans at the Battle of Colline Gate in 82 B.C.) when torches, or ‘ndocce’ were used during tribal shifts that usually took place at night, as s source of light.
Natalie moved to Rome from Southern California in 2010. At first, all the chaos of modern Rome made her less than convinced that this was the birthplace of la dolce vita. But after getting to know the city, she has embraced her adopted home and now blogs about what to see, do and eat in the Eternal City at anamericaninrome.com.
A tradition surviving generations……..
Today in the hills of Molise, where ties to tradition are still so strong, la serenata is alive and well – and during our Live and Learn Italian stay, we were so lucky to witness this really splendid event.
In days gone by, when a young man had set his sights and had a chance of being accepted, he would serenade below her window – encouraged and supported by other local lads and men. Sometimes the bride was quite surprised – and sometimes not very keen, so he might be greeted with a bucket of water!
Scambio is Italian for “exchange.” I meet an Italian who wants to learn English. We talk Italian for an hour and then English for an hour and correct each other along the way. However, one of my first language lessons in Rome was how to ask for said language lesson. Technically, scambio in Italian vernacular usually refers to a sexual swap. I tried calling it a scambio di lingua but while lingua means “language,” it also means “tongue.” That became problematic — and a bit dangerous — when asking women.
I’m Lucia Mancini or “L’Americana” as my neighbors have coined me. Originally from Los Angeles but having Italy in my blood through immigrant Abruzzesi parents, I wandered to Italy with the intention of staying a “few” years. After meeting my Italian husband on a business trip in China, I decided to stay in Italy and have been here for over 17 years. I currently live in Chiusi, Siena but spend quite a bit of time also in Los Angeles. I am a wife to Alessandro, a mom to two lovely boys, a university business professor, a writer, and a blogger. I love gardening and spending time outdoors.
So many people are learning Italian – incredibly it is the 4th most studied language! Mostly this is just for the pleasure of communicating on holiday trips to Italy, and although it might seem easy, it just isn’t – but there is no better way than to take some time to study in the country itself and immerse yourself.
So, let your inhibitions fly out the window and get practicing. Really the best thing to do is to find a place where no one speaks English, and then engage in an activity.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the delights of Italy, cultural, gastronomical, and architectural, the people, the countryside, the language… The whole package is an irresistibly heady offer, and it’s easy to see why expats flock to the land of Venice, Verdi, and vermicelli.
Before you swoon with the sensual overload of your new Italian idyll though, it may be worth sparing a thought for the rather less exciting, though arguably more important issue, of… taxes!
As an American living abroad, you are still liable to file a US tax return, and there are further, extra requirements placed on expats compared to Americans living in the States.
After 39 years as a sports, travel and food writer, John Henderson retired in January 2014 and moved to Rome. It was a one-way ticket.
He picked up where he left off after living for 16 months in Rome from 2001-03 where he wrote a book about his life as an expat, “American Gladiator in Rome: Finding the Eternal Truth in the Infernal City.” He currently freelances for various websites, magazines and newspapers and writes a travel blog, Dog-Eared Passport, at www.johnhendersontravel.com . He has traveled to 98 countries and won’t stop exploring anytime soon. He was born, raised and educated in Eugene, Ore., and spent from 1990-2014 at The Denver Post.