Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Memories of Italy


The sentence I will cherish the most from this trip was Norine's talking about Fontanazzo: "This is a place it hurts to leave". Indeed it is. This tiny village, which does not even show up on many maps, is such a beautiful place, not very different from what is portrayed in the movie The Sound of Music. I spent many summers during my youth there, hiking, looking for mushrooms, picking wild berries, playing Risk when it rained or soccer when it was sunny. I have so many memories. And it is here that Norine and I met. And that makes it an even more special place; both of us are so attached to it and now our children too.
Thinking of Fontanazzo reminds me that I need the capture the best memories of this trip, before they float away. Simple bullet points and a few pictures will do; they will be enough for me to recall the details later. You readers may not understand all of them, but they all mean something special to at least some of us Contolini.


  1. Getting a glimpse of Banff National Park, Isabella and dad alone
  2. The Canadian hare
  3. The excitement of landing in Italy again
  4. Raffaello looking at me from his painting in the Vatican Museum
  5. The painting of the triumph of the cross over pagan gods
  6. Isabella and the Vatican Post
  7. Walking through the Holy Doors in several Cathedrals
  8. Sunday Mass at the Pantheon
  9. The marble statues at Villa Borghese
  10. The expression of the French man I gave two free tickets to. He came back and thanked me: "It's my birthday today. Thank you for this birthday gift".
  11. Waiting the bus to Stazione Termini that never came. And so we walked more...
  12. The sweet old lady (97) in Anne's apartment building, whose tiny apartment we had to enter in order to retrieve Keely's clothes. When will you come back to visit me? She asked.
  13. Macine and Abbracci (biscotti)
  14. The look of the trip: Isabella wearing my baseball hat turned backward
  15. The 20+ points turn in the "no-outlet" alleyway in Rome. Cars parked on both side, people staring, Norine directing from outside, dad sweating. A true Italian moment!
  16. Pietro enjoying gelato
  17. Meeting with Guido and Simonetta again
  18. Dining on the terrace of Pensione Bencistà
  19. Multicolored marble in Florence.
  20. Emma has to buy two scarfs to cover herself and be able to enter the Cathedral.
  21. Norine's idea for remodeling Bencistà
  22. Walking with my precious family through the narrow, cobblestone, streets of Siena.  Even with all the tourists walking around I could imagine glimpses of life centuries ago moving through this medieval city on a hill
  23. Isabella feeling the desire to spend a semester in Italy/Siena during college
  24. The Tuscany cypress trees and Emma wanting to save their seeds
  25. Pietro opening the bathrooms with a pencil at McDonald's in Florence. Great work, buddy!
  26. The tourist tour bus through Verona. A part of me belongs in this city and I am ready again to spend some time here if it is God's will
  27. Driving to Fontanazzo
  28. The sense of familiarity with the houses, the trees, the hiking trails, the water fountains and all that make up Val di Fassa. A part of me belongs here also
  29. The gentle roar of fiume Avisio from the bedroom of the apartment in Fontanazzo
  30. Hiking alone up the steep path in the forest that I knew so well when I was going mushroom hunting
  31. Hiking to Rifugio Principe with Isabella and Pietro. I trusted I could do it and my back did not hurt. 
  32. "Rifugio's hopping". Norine's idea for next time in Val di Fassa.
  33. Eating pizza at Salin, in Pera di Fassa
  34. The European soccer cup: Italy beats Spain 2-0
  35. The morning walk alone around Fontanazzo looking for Wi-Fi.
  36. My dad hiking with us without physical pain
  37. My mom feeling relaxed during the stay in the mountains.
  38. The slightly humid smell of the stairwell in the apartment building in Fontanazzo. It is nothing special, but so unique and familiar to me.
  39. The view from the top of the Col Rodella funivia (gondola)
  40. Norine's squeak of excitement for the funivia of Pordoi appearing through the rocks.
  41. Burying a Euro cent next to the tree of the Fontanazzo apartment building. Will we remember it is here next time? will we be able to dig it out?
  42. Norine's girly joy when we purchased the "cucù clock" in Campitello. Even the store owner noticed it.
  43. Visiting with Arturo on the wheelchair and is sweet caring wife before leaving Fontanazzo.
  44. The Cathedral of Trento. The old frescos on the walls, forgotten for centuries
  45. Francesco and Ileana's generosity at their house in Lonato.
  46. The renovated patio
  47. Le mosche (flies)
  48. Noemi durante la colazione: "Mamma, quando uccidono le galline?"
  49. The day at Grest at the oratory in Lonato
  50. The conversation with Ileana's nonna in the field racking hay in 100F weather.
  51. Ileana's nonno's smile
  52. The day at Lake Garda.
  53. Don Matteo
  54. Fig trees growing from cracks on the streets. I have to figure out how to grow one in my greenhouse....
  55. Airline strike, flight cancelled, 4 hours on the phone to figure out a re-booking for 6 people. Priceless!
(more to come as I/we think about them)

#1

#1

#2

#5

#4

#6 and #11

Pietro enjoying Rome

#10 almost. Abbracci are missing

#8

#9

#19 - Paolo

#19

Norine's favorite piece of art. Florence

#18
It is strange to think that so many things that I am so familiar with are so far away. They exist, grow and change, while I spend my life in another continent. Yet, with a plane flight I can suddenly be there and touch them and experience them in a renewed way.  Modern air travel is amazing and I am grateful for it, but somehow it also contributes to this feeling of "separation" and "imperfection". My life belongs in Colorado now, but I cannot negate that, during this trip, I felt that part of who I am is in Italy and the two places and cultures cannot be fully reconciled in this lifetime. I cannot live, experience and enjoy both places and the people I love that live so far away at the same time. 
Until I few years ago I was worried I would get bored in Heaven. Now I am convinced that part of Heaven will actually consist in being able to experience to the fullness those we love and the places and beauty that give us joy. No that I have not heard that before said to me so many times, but only "feeling divided" between two countries made me finally understand it.

More pictures about the list above in another post, if our readers want to see more (do you?). 

1 comment:

Isabella Contolini said...

What a great blog post daddy!!!! I love seeing things through your eyes. :) This is an excellent list, very heartfelt, funny, honest, and beautifully written.