Not in a Tuscan Villa

By Nora Vasconcelos

DSC05037

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if you could live abroad for a year? John and Nancy Petralia did it, and from this question, their dream became a plan and, at the age of sixty something, they told everyone that they would be leaving their home in New Jearsey to live in Italy for a year.

Not tuscan pic

What sounded like a marvelous idea then it became true, with all the ups and downs that always come attached to reality. And all those challenges started even before they had packed.

Finding a place to live in Italy, was one of those challenges, along with fitting the dream into the real life. The romantic idea of a Tuscan Village, that came, partially from the famous movie Under the Tuscan Sun, and in part from the questions of their friends, as if they were going to rent a village, make them focused on what they actually could afford. With an appartment secured in Bologna, the dream started.

Then, the akward face of reality appeared again. The living conditions were not exactly what they had expected, and the town, although interesting, didn’t fit into the dream either. But John and Nancy didn’t give up, not even when dealing with a medical emergency abroad in a different language, made them wonder if they should come back to America. But they didn’t, on the contrary, they kept up with their plan of staying in Italy for a year to learn its language and its customs, as well as to travel around and appreciate, first hand, all the wonders that this European country has to offer to those who love art, tasty food, good wine and breathtaking landscapes.

DSC06469

Redesigning their plan, the couple looked not only for a new place but also for a new city where they could be able to ride freely their bikes, mingle with more people and somehow, feel more at home while away from home.

Patience, perseverance and time worked out when they managed to move to Parma, where things finally started to fall into place. It was there, when they actually felt that their dream had come true. Now, they just had to make the most of it, and they did it. Opera shows, how to make Italian cheese experiences, Thanksgiving in a foreign country, encounters with new friends, the visit of old good friends, all of this became part of their time in Italy.

DSC02141

And from all these experience, John and Nacy wrote an exceptional book which they titled Not in a Tuscan Villa, where they tell not only their experiences and describe with great detail the places they visited, but also talk about how hard they worked every day to integrate themselves into the rhythm and syle of this country, where they were actually living in, and not just visiting.

“It took us about a year to write the book and another six months for rewrites and editing changes. We belonged to a writers’ group at our local library that met every week and critiqued each others’ work. That kept us focused and gave us a goal each week.”, tells me Nancy Petralia.

final front cover-JPEG Not Tuscan

But the dream didn’t end when they came back to America, on the contrary, their year in Italy gave them a new set of dreams, plans and goals in life. Many things in the way they see life changed from their Italian experience and they’re ready to enjoy life even more. So, as Nancy says, they’re heading back to Italy soon to travel around and visit friends. It’ll be their third time back since their Italian year ended.

Their time in Italy also gave them, specially John, an idea for a possible new book, one based on the life of Giuseppe Garibaldi. For that, a trip to South America might be in their near future where they want to visit Montevideo, Uruguay, another key place in Garibaldi’s life.

DSC01113

*All images courtesy of John and Nancy Petralia

Licencia Creative Commons


I'm part of Post A Week 2014

Take a Seat and Enjoy The Village Square Journal

Guest Post by Amara Chimeka, Obinna Udenwe and Osemome Ndebbio Founding Editors of The Village Square Journal

Hello World!

We are pleased to welcome you to The Village Square Journal. A village square is more than just a venue, it is a catalyst of sorts for the arts, and all forms of its expression. The Village Square Journal seeks to be a hub where play and artistic display come together to thrill and thrive, as well a compendium of sorts for culture preservation. It also looks forward to being a fulcrum of the promotion and appreciation of all forms of visual arts, contemporary literature and politics

We feel honoured to launch our website with works from the finest selection of literary artists across the globe. Click on our fiction tab, and time travel with Jayne Bauling’s “Ancient Words.” It promises to be a smooth trip with the first 2000 words of Karen Jennings’ novel in progress, Crooked Seeds waiting to intrigue you aussi. Our essay tab is just as titillating, as there you will read multiple-award winning author and academic, Helon Habila.

Then there is a super informative opinion piece from Trish Nicholson based on her research on the history of famous women from the Stone Age to the 20thcentury that cuts across Egypt, Northern Nigeria, Scotland, Ethiopia, and India.

Our poetry tab will lead you to two profound poems. One from Toni Stuart that addresses the strength of women and another from Richard Inya on immigration and the fate of migrants trying to cross the Red Sea.

Follow our interview editor to Cameroon as she interviews Patrice Nganang, the professor recently incarcerated by Paul Biya, and read her conversation with Julie Owono, a human rights activist/lawyer based in Paris, France.

There is also the conversation between two of our editors and two editors of The Temz Review, Amy Mitchell and Aaron Schneider. We also thought you would want to have a yummy laugh, so we served you our Cameroon vs Nigeria Jollof War.

This outing would be impossible but for the brilliance, commitment and dedication of our contributing editors; Ngum Ngafor, Noma Sibanda and Nora Vasconcelos. We also wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to the members of our advisory board; Ivor Hartman, Viola Llewellyn, Professor Akachi Ezeigbo and Sian Ejiwumi-Le Berre.

We look forward to your feedback and to constantly serving the finest selection of literary pieces.

Sincerely,

The Village Square Journal Team

 

 

Serene

Licencia Creative Commons

Serene

Rounded

Licencia Creative Commons

Rounded

Diversions, Distractions, and Delightful Detours

By Nora Vasconcelos

Diversions, Distractions, and Delightful Detours …when I came across with this lovely topic I only could think of Mexico City, because this amazing place offers a bit of everything for anyone who visits or lives in this singular metropolis.

You can enjoy a spectacular view from the top…

… a little of magic in the middle of an urban forest,

… an oaisis in the middle of the city,

… sunny days and blue skyes,

and cloudy, scary ones as well.

Sometimes you come across with small surprises…

sweet surprises…

and big surprises!

Occasionally, a fantastic replica of the Sistine Chapel pops up in the middle of the city…

Or a huge foot ball joins the scenery along with an ancient sculpture and the skyline.

Some other times, you can fine solace in one of the many city parks.

And of course …a lovely bookstore is always nearby!

So, either you have a specific itinerary, or you just feel like wondering around, Mexico City will always be full of exciting experiences waiting for you!

**All photos: copyright Nora Vasconcelos

Licencia Creative Commons

Ooh, Shiny!

Textures

By Nora Vasconcelos

For anyone travelling around Seattle, there’s an exhibition that cannot be missed. The extraordinary artist Chihuly has developed an amazing glass garden located next to the Space Needle at the Seattle Center.

Over there, all sort of shapes and colours come to live to give the visitors a unique experience.

The refined soft textures of the glass mix with some of the other elements that surround this singular sculptures shaped by Chihuly to create a fantasy world in which one can get lost for a short or a long time, depending on how slow everyone wants their experience to be.

So, if you happen to be in Seattle this summer, don’t miss the chance to get yourself lost into this wonderful magic glass world!

* All photos courtesy of Jorge Vasconcelos

Licencia Creative Commons

Textures

Satisfaction

Not so long ago, there was an international exhibition in the main square of Mexico City. it was a celebration of friendship among dozens of countries which sent representatives to this fair to share their culture with all the visitors.

The whole experience was really satisfactory, so I’ve chosen these images to share that nice feeling. They show little kids having lots of fun while flying around on small planes, parachutes and hot balloons. These handcrafts were made in Uruguay.

Licencia Creative Commons

Satisfaction

Bridge

A breathtaking sight in the amazing city of Rome – photo credit Nora Vasconcelos

Licencia Creative Commons

Bridge

Transient

And then … it’ll fly away. (Copyright Nora Vasconcelos)

Licencia Creative Commons


Transient

Beautiful Bruges

By Jane Isaac
Crime Fiction Writer

The historic city of Bruges is located on the western side of Belgium in the Flemish Region and, in my mind, can only be described as achingly beautiful. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, ancient buildings are surrounded by cobbled streets, alongside the tall slim houses which line the canals that snake through the city centre.

With a climate very similar to England, we were treated to beautiful sunshine during our stay last weekend which undoubtedly added to our enjoyment, however I think there is little not to enjoy about Bruges. It’s not only pretty, but also one of the friendliest cities I have visited. The small Hotel Alegria where we stayed was perfectly located in the centre and the owner, Veronique, couldn’t do enough to cater for our every need, without being intrusive.

There’s a number of different options to travel to Bruges from the UK; I guess it rather depends on where you are travelling from. This time we opted for the Eurotunnel which we picked up at Folkstone and found to be not only inexpensive, but also enormously efficient. It seems that if you arrive early, you can board an earlier train within a two hour slot of your booking for no extra charge, and the boarding and disembarking are effortless, as are the drive through France and into Belgium. From our home in Northamptonshire, the whole journey took us a little over five hours door to door.

There are a plethora of different trips to take and places to visit when you arrive in the city. Cars are rarer than in other cities, making it softer and more tranquil, as most people appear to travel around by bike. A canal trip is beautiful and relatively inexpensive, especially when it includes an overview of the city’s rich history. Climbing the 366 steps to the top of the medieval Belfry that dominates Bruges skyline can be tough on the knees and a little scary in places (especially if you have a husband with a heart condition!), but the view at the top is breathtaking and well worth the hike. A trip around the back streets by horse and carriage is another wonderful way to move around, and particularly romantic on a balmy evening. There is also the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which is worth visiting for the stained glass windows alone, and if you are religious, amongst its relics, it claims to have a phial of the blood of Christ that you can view.

As one would expect, Bruges is packed with restaurants, cafes and outdoor eateries; lovely boutiques, and delicious chocolatiers. Of course we tried the chocolate (I can recommend Julie’s if anyone is looking for somewhere particularly nice), sampled the fresh waffles, and bought frites from the stall in the square. But those of you that know me well, will know that I’m a bit of a foodie (my daughter’s influence) and I really wanted to try some of their high end restaurants too. We enjoyed an amazing meal at Brasserie Raymond where we tried delicacies such as snails, marrowbone and bouillabaisse. We also ate lobster and moules (mussels) at the wonderful Breydel-De Coninc, somewhere I’m told the locals frequent. Main courses at these two restaurants average 20-30 Euros each, but are definitely worth it if you want to try something different, however the choice of eateries, and cheap ones at that, is vast and there is practically something available for every taste and pocket. My only regret was that due to being on medication I wasn’t able to sample the many beers that Belguim has to offer, although my husband made sure he didn’t let the side down on that count!

Surprisingly small (my husband joked that everything was within fifteen minutes walking distance from the city centre), Bruges is easily accessible on foot and a wander up the back streets, passing street markets, soaking up the ambience and sitting outside cafes is what it’s all about. On one particular evening, we sat near a market stall and, after chatting with the stallholder, she asked me to mind her stall while she popped to the ladies. At the same café, a bunch of musicians stopped by for a beer and pulled out their guitars. When they discovered my husband was also a keen guitarist, they leant him an instrument and they all played some tunes together. That evening summed up Bruges for me: good food and good company amongst beautiful surroundings. I should add that many of the locals speak up to five languages fluently, so communication is rarely a problem!

I’ll definitely go back to Bruges. Next time I’d like to take a boat trip to visit the nearby village of Damme and perhaps visit the Flanders Battlefields of Ypres too. There is just so much to do in and around this wonderful city.

*All images courtesy of Jane Isaac

** This article was originally published on Jane Isaac’s Blog

-´-´-´-´-´-´-´-´-

Licencia Creative Commons