Archive for the ‘the sea’ Category

Love Thursday: William’s Orgasmic View Lives On

Everything's brighter after the rain on FlickrWilliam the Englishman (or l’Inglese as he was called in the village) had a house in Badolato with an “orgasmic view” of the Ionian Sea, as he called it. He came to stay here every year from April to October.


During the early years (we both arrived in the village around 2003), we were the only two English speakers, so we’d meet for cappuccino in the piazza before William took the bus down to the beach. Along the way he’d stop to chat with just about everyone, trying out his ever-improving Italian, helped by the years he had spent as a bar owner in Spain.

William always joked that everyone knew him, but he most certainly didn’t know everyone. The young children on the bus especially enjoyed him as they relished the chance to practice their school-learned English.

I always felt like a surrogate daughter for William, whose own precious girl was about my age back in London. When William’s house needed “a woman’s touch” as he put it, I helped him pick out dishes and other little accents. Every couple weeks, I’d set up his cell phone ring tones, phonebook, and other settings he’d somehow managed to change. Paolo and I even had him over for a very impromptu Easter dinner one year.

William called me “the Unamerican American” because I had what he considered a rare curiosity about the world and desire to live abroad–Unamerican for an American, according to William. And he never did quite understand how I was able to work via Internet in this mountaintop village and actually make a living; I must have tried to explain it a hundred times.

Lest you think he was anti-American, though, William always rang me on Thanksgiving and was always sure to pay for my cappuccino on the 4th of July.


Soon after William bought his house here in Badolato, he was the victim of a hit-and-run back in London, and although he survived, he did so just barely. He suddenly had a long physical and emotional road to recovery ahead of him–not made any easier by all the steep hills and steps in Badolato.

And so, William considered selling his beloved casa with its “orgasmic view,” but I got the feeling that was never going to happen. He just loved his piccolo paradiso (little paradise), as he called it, too much.


In 2008, William died in a house fire in his flat in London. Paolo had gotten word when I was away on a trip, but he waited until I got back to tell me.

At that moment, on my balcony looking out at that same orgasmic view of the Ionian (my house was on the same side of the mountain as William’s, only higher up), all the memories of William came flooding back, bringing mostly smiles and, admittedly, also quite a few tears.

Then came an overwhelming sadness with the realization that not only would we never have cappuccino again, but also our connection was completely gone. Even though I had heard many stories about William’s family back in England, I had no contact information for anyone in his English life.

But then one day a few months ago, I opened up my email and saw what I knew to be his daughter’s name in my inbox. She had found me through this blog, not even realizing that I knew her father, only that I was an English speaker who lived in this mysterious medieval village that William had loved so much.


I met William’s daughter in person last week for the first time when she and her fiancé came to Badolato. She looks so much like her father and has precisely the same English sense of humor, or “humour” I suppose.

I know she was pleased to find out how many people enjoyed the company of l’Inglese, and that he didn’t simply come here to live as a hermit. I introduced her to quite of few of William’s acquaintances, each one saying he was “bravo” or “un grande amico” or something similar.

After initial thoughts of selling the house, she and her family have decided to keep it, rent it out, and otherwise offer it as a place of refuge from the real world for family and friends–much as her father used it when he was alive.

And I like to think that somewhere, William is smiling. His orgasmic view has been passed on to a new generation–and so have some of his friendships.

For William, “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton,
the man he called his “God”:

Happy Love Thursday everyone.

You Know You’re in Italy When…

Yesterday over at Twitter, the always lovely and informative ExpatCoach asked those of us with, ahem, Italian experience to fill in the blank:

You know you’re in Italy when…

A smattering of what ExpatCoach, Cherrye, Miss Expatria, Tina, and I came up with, within minutes:

  • …you can have a conversation with a stranger comprised entirely of facial expressions, hand gestures, and no words.
  • …you can say, “Boh?” and you’ve said a mouthful.
  • …you have to APPLY to complete an application for something.
  • …you wait in line for three hours at the Post Office…to pay a bill.
  • …your taxi driver’s hands are too busy waving & threatening other drivers to actually touch the steering wheel.
  • …you pour the wine over-handed and your guests gasp and bless themselves.
  • …your ability to digest milk (at any time of day) and drink ice cold drinks even while eating hot food astounds.
  • …perfect strangers worry about your catching a cold because you’re not dressed warmly enough. In July.
  • …you’re handed a scarf when you say your throat feels a bit scratchy.
  • …you’re the only person at IKEA without their entire extended family in tow.
  • …someone you just met invites you to dinner at their house.
  • …€5 on a bottle of wine is a splurge.
  • …posted schedules, hours of operation, etc. mean precisely nothing (except sciopero ones).
  • …someone, somewhere is in sciopero.
  • …you get honked at for letting an old lady cross the street.
  • …someone thinks your turkey wrap is a foreign food they’d never touch.
  • …your friend says “I quit drinking coffee. Now I only have three cups a day.”
  • …you find figs on your doorstep.

And now I’ll add:

  • …your morning errands take you to one shop for produce, another for bread, another for cheese, and yet another for meat–and you love every single minute of it.

I thought this woud be a fun weekend fill-in, so Italophiles, play along please:

You know you’re in Italy when…

Need some inspiration?

And be sure to visit ExpatCoach at Career By Choice and show her some love!

Buon weekend!

Settling Into Southern Italy

In the last group of questions, two specifically addressed my settling into life here in southern Italy. I shall do my best to answer them. (Not sure why these photos aren’t very crisp, but please do click on them to see them in better quality on Flickr.)

(1) AmberBee of Under Western Skies, formerly of Quasi Italiana!, asked “Do you think that you would feel as settled in a large city, or do you think your small community there (and the fact that you can get to know everyone) has helped you feel welcome there, and that it is really ‘home?’ Do you think your happiness quotient would have changed had you lived in a different part of Italy… Or would Italy have been ‘home’ no matter where you live there?”

This is an excellent question, AmberBee. Let me say that I felt at home in this village from the first time I visited, when I knew no one, spoke no Italian let alone Calabrese and had a very responsible job and promising career ahead of me in the States.

When I was here that first time, I felt like my soul connected with this place on a level I couldn’t make sense of myself. I cried when it when it was time to go home, even though I knew I would be back. In fact, I knew a few days into my trip that I would live here–a silly proposition, really, for someone who couldn’t speak the language and knew no one in the country.

I didn’t know when I would live here and for how long, but it was almost like I didn’t have a choice. And looking back, I’m not sure I did.

When I did go back to the States for a few months, this place pulled me back every day even though I was perfectly happy to spend hours on end with my niece and nephew there. But there was just *something* inside of me telling me where I needed to be, and it was here.

No, I don’t think it’s “Italy” in general or even “Calabria” that I call “home.” It’s this village. And yes, I do think that P, his family and the welcoming neighbors have helped me get settled, and I believe that’s exactly the way it was meant to be.

I hope that answers your question.

(2) Vita asked: “Do you have some philosophy or view point about that – like that Italians have simpler, happier lives? I know that’s a very personal question and I know people have asked about what you miss in the States and I’ve read those posts (coffee, etc..) but I’m wondering about more esoteric ideas – like the way Americans are direct. The way things get done more efficiently – or, have you somehow moved through that and found that the way of life in Italy is somehow more satisfying to your soul?”

Oh Vita, where can I begin? I’m not a high-strung person by nature. The rat race never attracted me even when I was in school with quite a few rats (and snakes and worms, etc.). I don’t need things done yesterday, and I certainly don’t need everything I could ever imagine available to me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Quite frankly, I don’t need very many “things” at all.

So is the laid-back, simpler Italian (village) lifestyle more satisfying to my soul? Well, I’d say yes. I have simple needs when it comes right down to it, and as a Libra, I can even be overwhelmed by too many choices.

But do I think Italians are happier because of the general way of life here? Intrinsically, no, I don’t think so. I know a lot of Italians who get just as fed up with inefficiency and waiting as the average American would and who would love to give Telecom and, ahem, Berlusconi a swift kick where the sole don’t shine.

Here’s my thing: Happiness is an individual thing, and I’m lucky/blessed to be in charge of my own happiness–not everyone has this luxury. Even better, every moment gives me a new opportunity to choose happiness. How cool is that?

I’ve found my happy place, quite literally, and no, it’s not paradise all the time, but what fun would life be if there were no lemons? You all know I love lemons.

More questions answered next Monday!

If you have any, leave them in the comments!

love thursday:
love at the beach

Visions of love from Catanzaro Lido:

Love on the beach on Flickr

Guarda lì! on Flickr

Happy Love Thursday everyone!

And by the way, when is the last time *you* held someone’s hand?

calabrian women’s summit 2008

Il Cedro B & B in Catanzaro, Calabria, ItalyLast weekend Cherrye of My Bella Vita, Dawn (blogless! scandalous!), and I met up at Il Cedro in Catanzaro for our 2nd annual Calabrian Women’s Summit. Remember how much fun we had last year?

As we now know of two other American women (two!) in Calabria, look for the event to grow and hopefully become more frequent as well!

We’re already planning to get together to see Sex and the City (in Italian–boo) next weekend . . . yes it opens here on May 30 just like for most of you. Are you going? I only started watching Carrie and the girls here a few months ago, but I’m just as addicted as everyone else who has been with the ladies for years.

Will she and Big *really* get married?!

Anyway, Cherrye gives a great rundown of this year’s Summit with photos here, so do head over and check it out. We had a blast! Woohoo!

For my part, I’m going to share some photos of Catanzaro Lido and get those of you in the States geared up for the long weekend with some beach shots:

The Lungomare:

Lungomare at Catanzaro Lido on Flickr

Setting up for the summer:

Getting ready for summer on Flickr

Boys in the water (there was a cool breeze, but they didn’t feel it):

Fun in the sea on Flickr

This little one retreated every time the water came near–water was cold to her!

Bird who doesn’t want to get *too* close on Flickr

Puppy in the grass appropriately acting out the theme song of the weekend, “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy–I *dare* you not to dance or sing along if you click on that link.

It wasn’t me on Flickr

Read more about this lovely Bottlebrush (aka Feather duster to me) in the comment on Flickr here:

Inspiration for the koosh on Flickr

And a final shot of Catanzaro Lido:

Catanzaro Lido on Flickr

Summer’s just about here!

Don’t forget check out Judy’s Over a Tuscan Stove for this week’s La Buona Cucina America recipe– Buffalo Wings!–and also my guest blog appearance over at Lucky Dorito!

Buon weekend!

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake