Back to cooking and Spaghetti allo Scammaro

Back to cooking and Spaghetti allo Scammaro

This blog post is part of the #DolceVitaBloggers link up from Mamma Prada, Italian at Heart and Questa Dolce Vita. Each month they pick a topic and open it up to all bloggers to join in. The topic for September is a favourite Italian recipe.

I went through a really long adjustment period during the move to Italy, starting from when we first started packing up our flat in London in September 2017 and ending sometime during the spring. I was overwhelmed by these big changes and I lost all interest in cooking and I couldn’t taste or enjoy food. It’s not that I turned anorexic and didn’t want to eat. I ate everything, but I didn’t care about eating like I normally did. I was numb.

But now things have been getting better. In April we moved to Forio, on the west side of the island, into a little yellow house with a garden. The house was furnished, but the kitchen just had the basics, so the first thing me and Marituccio did was put together the kitchen. We mounted shelves and bars to hang up our pots and pans and tools. We added a sideboard table and put a cutting board on top of the small fridge to add some more counter space.

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I had a kitchen again and I started to cook. At first, I made a few simple dishes and rotated them during the week, slowly getting into it. Then in July, I went up to the Venice and got the rest of our stuff out of storage and shipped everything to Ischia. That meant our move was finally complete and home felt like home. Then I really started cooking the way I used to. Reading about food, trying new recipes and getting inspired. The days were long and hot with the cicadas booming, the door was always open with the cats coming in and out of the garden and I listened to podcasts and music while cooking. And the supermarket was down the road so I could do a daily shop picking up just what I needed for the day. And then Marituccio would come home from work and it would still be light out so we’d walk to the beach to watch the sunset. And then we’d come back and sit and eat.

I cooked and made all sorts of things this summer, trying new things and letting my mind lead me to wherever it wanted to go: A tomato tart, roasted aubergines, cantuccini, and zucchini flower pancakes. Grilled peaches with goat cheese and walnuts, red chilli compote with chillies from the garden and fish tacos. Steak pizzaiola, prosciutto and melon, gallons of gazpacho, and a spinach frittata in a cream of chickpeas. Fresh mayonnaise in tomato sandwiches, pea risotto, and roasted tomatoes.  I was chewing on the heart of summer, getting the most I could out of it.

Such a different feeling from all those months feeling numb and lost craving burgers, fries and hot dogs. Reading about food and looking through cookbooks and recipes online made me feel happy and settled again and I had a kitchen full of light where I could keep my cookbooks and hang up pictures and postcards. Of course the cats coming in and brushing against my leg or threatening to jump on the counter made it fun too. And the church bells ringing Ave Maria at 8 pm every night.

One of my favourite dishes that I made this summer is a dish we ate every Christmas Eve while I was growing up. You would think that during those hot humid days I would avoid eating anything that would remind me of the winter, but this sweet and salty pasta dish made of olives, raisins and pine nuts felt like the perfect thing to eat. Growing up the dish didn’t have a name and I never saw any of my other aunts and uncles eat it, so it just seemed like it was our thing. But one day when the craving hit me, I googled the ingredients and I found Spaghetti allo Scammaro.

It’s actually a 19th century Neapolitan recipe back when Napoli was under Bourbon control. The Duke of Buonvicino, Ippolito Cavalcanti, first prepared this dish for the fasting monks during Lent and the other fasting days (called in Italian i giorni magri -skinny days). The recipe was added to his book Cucina Teorico-Pratica in 1837 and it quickly became part of the Neapolitan cucina povera.  It’s nice to know that we were following an old Neapolitan tradition after all by making this on Christmas Eve.

The Neapolitan word scammaro originates from the monks in the monasteries. During Lent, the monks who were unwell and were permitted to eat meat ate their meals in their rooms (cammere in dialect) so as not to disturb the other fasting monks. So the word cammerare (to eat inside your room) became synonymous with eating heavy fatty carnivorous meals while scammerare (to eat outside of your room) meant eating light vegetarian or fish-based meals.

I guess it made sense getting this craving over the summer when it was too hot to cammerare. It’s a quick easy light dish and goes great with a glass of white wine from the fridge and a peach or fig for dessert.

 

spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking
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Spaghetti allo Scammaro

Quick light pasta dish for your 'giorni di magro'.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 20 gr pine nuts
  • half handful gaeta olives
  • 1 anchovy in oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • chopped parsley
  • grated parmigiano (optional)
  • 160 g spaghetti

Instructions

  1. Leave the raisins to soak in a bowl with warm water. Remove the pits from the olives and roughly chop. Toast the pine nuts in a pan over a low flame for under a minute. Watch closely and don’t let them burn. Once toasted, set aside.

  2. Add oil to the pan. Add the anchovy and once it dissolves add a crushed garlic clove.

  3. Add the olives, raisins and capers and cook until soft and covered in oil. Add in the toasted pine nuts. Remove from heat.

  4. In the meantime, add the spaghetti to the boiling water. You’ll want this to be al dente so remove two minutes before the suggested cooking time on the packet. Reserve some cooking water.

  5. Add the pasta and a ladle of cooking water to the pan with the sauce and put it on a low flame and mix until the sauce becomes rich and creamy and sticks to the pasta.

  6. Add chopped parsley and grated parmigiano if desired.

Recipe Notes

Note: Most of the ingredients in this dish are salty so it would be easy to make this dish too salty. Play around with the measurements. I add more raisins to balance the saltiness and I put just a bit of salt in the water before I throw in the pasta.

I’ve seen some posts online where this recipe is taken to the next level in which breadcrumbs are added and it is fried so it becomes a frittata without the eggs. Crazers! The frittata could be a great vegan dish (if you leave out the anchovies and cheese) to bring to a party or picnic.spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking

spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking

spaghetti allo scammaro and cooking

 

Enjoy!

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10 Years in Europe. Happy Anniversary to me!

10 Years in Europe. Happy Anniversary to me!

Wow wow wow. Ten years ago today I got on a plane with three suitcases and left my home in New York for London and now I’m here, 6 visas later, living in a little yellow house in Ischia. The plan back then when I first started was to study in London for a year and then move to Rome and see how long I could last there.

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My 29th birthday and saying goodbye to New York and my friends. I was so excited to move to London and be closer to Italy. That’s my friend Phillipe on the left and my cousin Marina, laughing gloriously, on the right.  New York, August 2008.

There were so many moments during those first years in which I felt like my nerves were stretching like piano strings while I flew back and forth between Italy and the UK playing the visa game, keeping up with friendships and trying not to fail and move back to New York. Immigration laws and visa woes drove me crazy and created oceans of anxiety. Also the solitude, isolation and loneliness from living abroad and in new cities. The unrelenting effort to start a new life from scratch in all of these different places. The insecurity of learning and speaking a different language. All the unsuccessful job interviews and having to navigate through low self-esteem.

Sometimes it felt like no one understood what I was trying to do and the things I was doing to make it happen. While people could understand the effort and ambition you need to go after a career, trying to live where you want to live isn’t really recognised as something commendable (just look at all the anti-immigration rhetoric that’s dominating politics). I mean no one was giving me a high-five as I filled out applications and went to visa appointments and immigration offices. Most of the time, I felt like I was a brat for wanting something that I couldn’t have.

Me in class getting ready for a class trip to the Venice Biennale. London, June 2009.

I could have stayed in the US and gotten a career in something and become a professional who wore nice clothes to work and felt like I could take care of myself. Instead I threw myself into uncertainty, cobbling together jobs and studying for two more masters, walking the streets a perpetual over-educated and underemployed non-EU citizen hoping that something would turn out in the end.

Me in my kitchen in Rome wearing an apron from Ischia. Despite the solitude and heartache, I loved loved loved Rome so much. Rome, August 2010
When I moved back to London, I had a bed, Ikea furniture and 11 boxes of stuff that I put on a truck. Everything arrived 3 weeks later. A lot of those things came back with me when we moved back to Italy. Rome, February 2011.

10 years on, I’m still here and it’s turned out pretty good. I’ve slowly learned how to deal with the uncertainty and not treat the set-backs as a reflection on my character. I’m proud that I made it this far. Looking back, I would have done some things differently (like study in Rome instead of London), but then I might not be sitting here today, writing this post from my home on an island in the Mediterranean where I live with Marituccio. I’m stronger than I was 10 years ago, have met amazing people along the way, especially artists and writers, developed strong friendships that can withstand the distance, and created a new way of living in different cities, languages and accents. I’ve had tons of jobs and learned new skills. I’ve worked in art galleries, an auction house, and a bakery. I’ve been a private English tutor, a translator, and freelance writer. I’ve written, performed and published poems and essays. I haven’t made a lot of money or stock-piled a nest egg, but I did manage to fill up the pages in my passport and had new pages put in.

During these years, I’ve seen this tide against migrants and refugees swell across Europe and I’ve been caught in the changes in laws as conservative governments have come into power. And it’s really ironic, that now as an immigrant married to an Italian and having had to go through immigration in Italy, I feel more welcomed and legally accepted than I ever did in the UK (even before Brexit). I’m painfully aware of the disgusting racist rhetoric against immigrants coming from the government and Italians on the street, this perpetual blaming the other, as if kicking out immigrants is going to automatically make life beautiful for those that were born here. The irony, contradictions and awareness of my privilege is something I deal with every day especially when I get into an argument with someone over immigration and I hear them say something offensive about immigrants. ‘But Giovanna, I wasn’t talking about you.’

I sometimes still struggle with the idea that I could have stayed home and I question myself wouldn’t it be easier to move back home and establish a career, buy a house, start a family, save money for retirement? But the longer I’m here, the less I ask myself that. Moving back to Italy is definitely not the way to go for job and life security and who knows what I’ll be able to achieve here, but living in London and going through Brexit taught me that there is no single place or career that will give you security. Something will always happen that will change everything you planned for, so why not just follow your heart and do what you want to do?

My favourite job was at Christie’s in London. This was my last day at work hanging out in the post room with the boys. London, July 2012.
Learning how to make pasta. That’s my mother-in-law in the background. Venice, August 2012
Me and Marituccio happy, tired and drunk on our wedding day in London. August 2013

I don’t know what’s next in store for me and I don’t have that dreamy eyed excitement of starting a life abroad as I did 10 years ago, but I’m still certain that this is where I want to be. I’ve applied for Italian citizenship (which will probably take years to come through, I’m not holding my breath), so one day in the future I won’t be considered an extracomunitaria but an Italian and EU citizen. Something I’ve wanted ever since I was a little kid. When that happens, will that change how I feel about who I am and where I belong?

Doing chores at our first place in Ischia. December 2017.
Speaking at a round table discussion during La Palabra en El Mundo Poetry Festival in Venice. I was terribly unprepared, but I pulled myself together and spoke in Italian about culture and identity. Ca Foscari, Venice, May 2018. (photo by Alexandra Mitakidis)

When I was little, Italy was where I had family that made me feel loved and welcomed and I wanted to be with them and live where they were. Despite being a foreigner, I didn’t feel out of place here. Of course, now that I’m an adult and live here, it’s a bit more complicated, but it still feels like home, even though the longer I live here, home is a harder place to define. But I think the biggest thing is that while for decades, home and Italy felt like a childhood dream, a magical place, now that I’m here, I realise home isn’t a perfect place. But it’s where I want to be and I’m finally allowed to be where I want to be, so  I think that’s good enough.

Ischia and the cats in my life

Ischia and the cats in my life

My life is now full of cats. For the longest time, I had no cats and I wanted a cat so bad. I left New York 10 years ago and all this time I wanted a cat so bad – a cat that could grow in my home, that could keep my company at my desk, that could sit on top of my book while I tried to read, that could sit on my belly, that could sit on my face, that could crawl on top of me to wake me up from my sleep, a cat that was my friend, a cat that understood me but that I couldn’t understand, a cat that could remain wild while living in a house. I moved to Europe 10 years ago and it’s taken 10 years for me to find a home and settle down enough to have a cat.

But I have these cats by accident. It wasn’t by a choice, they just showed up and I let them in.

Continue reading “Ischia and the cats in my life”

As soon as we found long-term housing on the island in the town of Forio and moved into our yellow house, Terri, the landlord’s pregnant cat who lived next door, decided she wanted to move in with us. Perhaps because we fed her fish, perhaps because we let her in the kitchen and sleep on the chair, perhaps because she liked us. The landlords didn’t mind because she was a roaming cat and would go off for days at a time and they were happy that she was safe at our place.

Ischia and the message of cats
Terri turning our place into a home.

So that’s what happened, Terri moved in and had her 5 babies with us. It’s been incredible to watch these fragile tiny beings grow and change and love us as much as we love them.

But sometimes I feel like my heart is going to explode. All of these emotions overwhelm me. The little orange kitty we name Gordito, passed away during his second week of life. Terri went into heat while she was still nursing the kittens and the house was surrounded with tom cats while we locked the wailing Terri inside. The kittens, now that they’re older, leave the garden to explore and I chase after them making them come back into the garden only to have them jump back out. I worry and wonder, there are so many of them.

And then just two weeks ago, another kitten showed up in our garden. A little grey boy so scared, lonely and hungry. And I cried and cried thinking that it was too much, that I needed to send him away, but I couldn’t do it. This poor little kitty needed so much love. So we took him too and named him Sesto, meaning Sixth in Italian, adding him as the sixth cat to our cat family.

But I love them, I love them, I love them. How easily they’ve become part of my life here, helping me ease into life on the island, helping me create a home out of this yellow house. I’m quite anxious now that they’re big enough to leave the garden and start roaming and it’s been hard for me. But I will get used to it because it’s the only way that I can keep 6 cats. These mysterious independent live beings.

Ischia and the message of cats
L-R: Sesto, Rose, Indy, Mucca, Pippo

Like what Doris Lessing says, in ‘The Old Age of El Magnifico’ –  Cat walks across your room, and in that lonely stalk you see leopard or even panther, or it turns its head to acknowledge you and the yellow blaze of those eyes tells you what an exotic visitor you have here, in this household friend, the cat who purrs as you stroke, or rub his chin, or scratch his head.

Sometimes I wonder, how did they know? How did they know to show up at our door. How did Terri know that we were new and lonely and needed some love and would take care of her and her kittens? How did Sesto know how to find us, that there was this garden with this little cat family full of brothers and sisters for him?

I can’t help but believe that these creatures have chosen us and told us that after moving around for so many years, that this is finally home and that we will stay.

Ischia and the message of cats
Me and Pippo
PART 2: Getting a Permesso di soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)

PART 2: Getting a Permesso di soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)

After 8 months and 7 visits to the Questura di Venezia, I finally have my Carta di Soggiorno. What, you ask? Weren’t you applying for a Permesso di Soggiorno (PdS)?  Yes! I was expecting to receive a PdS (with a shorter expiry date) because that was what I’ve read online and what I applied for, but I was given a longer-term residency permit (valid for 5 years) because I was a family member of an EU citizen.

You can read about how to apply and the documents that you need in Part 1.

To explain it all, I’ll give you a timeline of my experience since there is so little information out there and up until I finally picked up my permesso/carta, I had no idea what to expect.

Continue reading “PART 2: Getting a Permesso di soggiorno for a spouse of an Italian/EU citizen (motivi familiari)”

My experience

November 2017: I moved to Italy from London. We were going to live in Ischia, but we stopped in Venice, where Marituccio is from, so we can do our paperwork, establish residency and get enrolled in the Italian health system.

I went to the Questura di Venezia the day after I arrived and applied in person and without an appointment. According to the Italian consulate in London (read no. 3), you don’t need to apply through the postal kit and wait for an appointment, you can go directly to the Questura and apply on that day.

So, I arrived to the Questura, gave the security guard my passport and he told me to go inside and wait. I waited for about 3 hours until someone called my name and I went to a desk. I gave him my documents and he filled out a form and sent me to another room to get my fingerprints. I waited another hour to get my fingerprints taken and then went back to the desk and he gave me a temporary PdS, a paper version with my picture stapled on it that was valid for 3 months. I had to go back in 3 months to see if it was ready and if it wasn’t, they would stamp my temporary permesso for another 3 months.

With my temporary permesso, I was able to go to the comune to get residency, enroll in the health care system, and open a bank account.

Provisional Permesso di Soggiorno they gave me to keep while I waited for my official Permesso di Soggiorno

December 2017: We moved to Ischia in Naples and got a short-term flat so we could get settled and look for long-term housing.

February 2018: I went to the Questura in Venice two weeks before it was going to expire. I was given a number and waited 5 hours to see someone. When I did, he told me I came to early to see if it was ready and to come back the following week. I went back the following week, it still wasn’t ready so I got a stamp that extended it for another 3 months.

March 2018: The local police, sent by the Questura, visited Martiuccio’s mom’s house, to see if we lived there. This is part of the process for the permesso di soggiorno, but I had no idea. I thought the police only come to check where you live when you apply for residency. My mother-in-law told the police that we were living in Ischia, that Marituccio got a seasonal job in a hotel, and she gave him his number.

They called Marituccio and told us we had to go up to Venice so they can come see us. They were nice about it though and let us fix an appointment with them so we could make work and travel arrangements and fly up there the following week . So we did, the officer stopped by the house, took photographs of our ID cards with his camera and then talked for 10 minutes with my mother-in-law about plumbing.

May 2018: I went back to the Questura on a Wednesday afternoon where they only see people who come to pick up their PdS. I waited an hour. It wasn’t ready, but the guy was perplexed because he said it should have been ready by now since the police had visited the house. He extended my permit for two months.

June 2018: On the Questura di Venezia website, there is a page where you can check to see if your PdS is ready. No one told me about this, I just checked and saw it. When I put in my number, nothing would show up so I figured either 1) I wasn’t in the system, 2) it wasn’t ready or 3) you couldn’t check my type of PdS in the system. I checked in June and suddenly it came up that my permit was ready and that I could go to the Questura to pick it up. Hurray! I could have gone up to Venice, but I decided to wait until July when my temporary permit expired because I had been travelling every single month since I arrived in Italy and wanted to take a break.

applying for a permesso di soggiorno as a family member of an italian citizen
I was expecting this electronic biometric card as my permesso di soggiorno. (Which I received the last time I lived in Italy).

July 2018: I took a flight to Venice, arrived late in the evening and stayed in a hotel across the street from the Questura so I could get there extra early and be one of the first people to enter once it opened. I arrived at 645 am and when I arrived up to the security office at 830, he told me that on Mondays they don’t see people who come to pick up their PdS. I walked away crying many tears of frustration. I went back the next day and waited 5 hours. When I got to the desk, he pulled out a big file with my name on it. I was expecting a Permesso di Soggiorno that was valid for two years, but instead he gave me a Carta di Soggiorno, a long-term residency permit, that was valid for 5 years. I checked that my details were correct and signed two copies. One copy they kept, the other copy was for me, a paper booklet. I was completely surprised because I hadn’t come across online that spouses would receive a Carta di Soggiorno. Everything I read called it a PdS. So I left the questura elated because it meant that I probably would never have to go to the questura again (knock on wood). Since I’ve applied for Italian citizenship via marriage, hopefully my citizenship will come through before the permit expires.

But if it doesn’t, then I will apply again in order to receive permanent residency.

 

 

applying for a permesso di soggiorno as a family member of an italian citizen
The Carta di Soggiorno for family members of EU citizens.

 

Things I’ve learned through this whole process:

• Be resigned to the fact that there is little information and that you’ll have to find out things as you go along. You can get an idea by reading online or talking to others, but your experience may be different than someone else’s. But still, keep an open mind, be prepared to spend hours waiting and bring with you toilet paper, reading material and snacks. Be positive about it all otherwise it’s just going to be even more painful than it already is.
• Check, double check and triple check the hours of the questura. Read all the fine print because it is there where they will tell you that on certain days they only see people with PdS applications and at certain times they only see people who are picking up their PdS.
• Keep all of your documents (marriage certificates and translations, health cards and tax codes, bank statements, car insurance, documents and letters from the comune, EVERYTHING), both originals and copies, in a binder. Bring that binder with you to every bureaucratic appointment because you never know.
• If they send you away because you’re missing a document or that you’ve arrived on the wrong day, try not to take it too hard. By all means, cry or scream in the bathroom to let it out and then move on. The world is not against you, this happens to everyone, and it’s a part of living in Italy and just think that this is the long process of becoming a part of this country, a sort of initiation.
• Don’t think about the time or money that you’ve wasted travelling and waiting. Just don’t. It’s inevitable.

Next steps: Now that I have my carta di soggiorno, we will change our residency to our place in Ischia. I will also go to driving school to get my Italian driver’s license since my US license is not valid in the EU. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Good luck to everyone and congratulations to everyone who has gone through it.

Going to Ikea and the Neapolitan way to ‘sdrammatizzare’

Going to Ikea and the Neapolitan way to ‘sdrammatizzare’

Me and D found long-term housing and recently moved to a lovely little yellow house in Forio on the other side of the island. Before we moved, we went to Ikea to pick up a few things to set up the kitchen and while I was excited to go on the mainland for a day trip, D was in a bad mood.  He was nervous about driving since our 12-year old Fiat Punto was acting like a dick, the starter wasn’t firing the engine every time you turn the key. You have to do it a few times before it starts. It isn’t a big deal if you’re in a parking lot, but if you’re in a queue to get on and off the ferry it can be nerve-wracking. Also I think the car senses D’s mood because the more nervous he gets the more it acts up. You have to be pretty zen around the car, basically you have to not give a shit about cars beeping all around you waiting for you to get out of the way.

Continue reading “Going to Ikea and the Neapolitan way to ‘sdrammatizzare’”

Our 12-year old moody Fiat Punto that has made 5 trips to Venice so far.

The day of our Ikea trip, D wasn’t feeling very zen around the car and I was trying to keep the mood light. We weren’t off to a good start (pun intended) because every time we had to turn off the car (at the ticket office, at the port, in the queue), it took forever to get it to start again and cars beeped and sped around us, giving us stare downs as they passed. D was doing breathing exercises to keep himself from losing his shit and I ate snacks trying not to get bummed out by the car.

Finally we got on the ferry, but the big showdown was having to drive off the ferry an hour later when we arrived at Pozzuoli. Of course the car wouldn’t start and we were left sputtering on the boat while all the other cars zoomed off. D was sweating bullets and wanted to scream, but instead he shouted to some ferry workers who were hanging out by the opening and waved them down for help.

The guys from the ferry pushed our car right to where that Fiat Panda is

They came running over and D goes, ‘I need to push the car off the ferry’ and they immediately got into position. I sat in the passenger seat and looked at them in the rear view mirror and I saw them smiling, like this was something interesting for them. As the car started to gain speed from four guys pushing it, D jumped in the driver seat to steer the car.

‘Put it in third!,’ one of the guys shouted and they all laughed, their laughter echoing across the walls of the empty belly of the ferry. It sounded like a school cafeteria and everyone was excited to have a break.

I realised a bit of magic was happening. The Neapolitan art of ‘sdrammitazzare’, the art of taking the drama out of something, downplaying the bad vibes and turning it into a party. The guys pushing our car were having fun! They pushed the car off the ferry ramp and wheeled it to the side of the road. And then instead of walking away, they all crowded around the car, fighting with each other to take turns turning on the car and discussing what was really wrong. They wanted to know where we were going, what we were going to buy, what we did for work and where we lived on the island.

‘O, so we’re neighbours,’ one of the guys said. ‘We’ll see each other again!’

And another asked me, ‘But do you trust this guy to take you where you need to go?’

‘I have no choice.’ I said and that was so funny and we all laughed.

And then D shouted to everyone to be quiet and he turned the key half way. You could hear the subtle buzzing of the mechanism firing some gasoline into the engine. He turned the key and the car roared alive. We all shouted and clapped and the guys shook our hands and we thanked them a million times and they waved us goodbye and wished us a fun trip to Ikea.

And our mood was changed, and just like that life was different, clearing away the anxiety and self-questioning and we were happy puttering our way to Ikea.

It’s a great word. Sdrammatizzare. Downplay the negativity and take the situation lightly. Neapolitans, who are also masters at pouring drama into the most mundane everyday occurrences (just try having a conversation on a Monday about what to make for Sunday lunch next week), are known for this. Like ants attacking a breadcrumb, they’ll surround someone who is sad or in a bad mood and try to show them that they’re not in as bad of a place as they really are. And yeah, they can also take the act of sdrammatizzazione too far when they ignore societal or political problems, but it works well for a lot of things during everyday life.

La Pulcinella

This Neapolitan lesson of sdrammatizzazione has been incredibly helpful during these first few months of moving back to Italy. Sure there’s a lot to complain about and it’s easy to think that every difficulty that we come across is a sign that we can’t achieve what we really want. I can hear those voices from family members that told me that Italy was an impossible place to live in, that my parents sacrificed everything to give me a better life and now I want to turn my back on them and go live in Italy. But there is this new voice that comes, a Neapolitan voice that says, ‘Hey, look at you! You have a job and a place to live and so what if there’s the unknown in front of you. You have new friends and neighbours and people that care about you here and want to see you stay. So here, sit down. You hungry? Here’s a plate of cheese, bread, and my mother’s canned vegetables.’