|Novelia e Peppe in Santo Stefano Sessanio|
"Every person is a new door to a different world." ~ Unknown
"How do you like," the beautiful Italian woman started to ask me, "that they call Peppe in and leave me outside. I wanted to go in. I waited all day, and all day I was standing outside."
Novelia, my wonderful friend from Sulmona, is talking about The American, a 2010 film starring George Clooney that filmed in a number of towns (including Sulmona, Santo Stefano, and Pacentro) in Abruzzo. She and her husband, Peppe, were going to be extras sitting in a restaurant in one of the scenes. Instead, the casting director asked Peppe to follow him in, and Peppe spent the day sitting in for Clooney while Novelia waited outside. She still hasn't forgiven him (Him being the casting director, George Clooney, or Peppe/George, her husband). (Only joking)
Mike and I met Novelia and Peppe two years ago when we rented their Sulmona apartment for a month. They are as passionate about the Abruzzo area as I am, and they love to introduce people to the wonderful region. Because of a slight booking problem, Group #1 didn't stay with Novelia this year, but she and Peppe were grand enough to be our guides for three wonderful days and, so very graciously, pick us up at the train station and deliver us to another apartment. They also took us back to the train station on the day we left, and, given the amount of luggage we had, that was no small task
|Peppe, Steve, Deb, and Charlene in Raiano|
Born in Pratola Peligna, a small city a few miles from Sulmona, Novelia grew up in Canada. Her father decided that he didn't want to die in that place, and they moved back to Italy. Her mother and sister live a few kilometers away, and they are very close. A desire to share Italy in general and Abruzo in particular lead her to open "House of the Heart," the apartment we rented. She is a great cook, a exuberant and cheery person, and an all-around great sister (from another mother) to me.
Peppe (aka George), her husband, is from the capital city of L'Aquila. Like Novelia, he loves his country and region and is very willing to share. An architect by trade he helps Nove show off the beautiful area in which they live. As I mentioned last night, he doesn't speak English (although I think he can) but understands most of what their English-speaking guests say. I am truly happy that I can communicate with him now.
"I hope I'm saying all this correctly," I told him. "I'm still learning. I'm still trying."
"I understand you," he told me. "Your Italian is better than my English." He's gracious.
|Charlene, Doreen, Novelia, and Leslie's hand in Raiano|
On the last night we were in Sulmona, Novelia and Peppe drove us to Raiano, a small town about 15 minutes from Sulmona, for gelato. The gelateria uses all natural products and crops grown in the area for their gelato. Raiano is famous for its cherries, so amarena is a featured flavor. In addition, the night we were there, they had olive oil, avocado, and saffron gelato (three different flavors). The olive oil is pretty good (Think vanilla that is smooooooth.), but I stuck with amarena.
Someone in the group (Doreen, I think) mentioned how wonderful Peppe was to help Novelia guide us through Abruzzo.
"Call me San Guiseppe," Peppe laughed.
When we left for Bologna the next morning, Nove surprised us with sandwiches, a cooler filled with six bottles of water, and her famous chocolate cake. She didn't want us to get hungry or thirsty on the four-hour train ride to Bologna. Everyone in the group appreciated the kindness she and Peppe showed us, and they all will remember the Abruzzo experience for a long time.
That, my dear friends, is what Italy is about. Yes, you can go to Rome and Florence and Venice and Pisa and Milano and see the museums and mercatos and gondolas and glass-blowers, but the real Italy is not those things. The real Italy is the people who are generous and kind and loving and willing to share not only their country but also their lives.
I cannot wait to see Nove and Peppe again.