It’s hard to believe but we’ve been in Rome for three Thanksgivings now. And Italians still don’t celebrate. But that’s okay because we do.
Armed with an apple crisp and Parmesan Smashed Potatoes a la Barefoot Contessa, we reunited with our original group of ex-pats again, as we did on the first year — the first week that we arrived. (When I was also pregnant. Maybe this is my thing.)
Dan and Amy are the best hosts with plenty of space and above all…toys.
Dan prepared the bird.
The kiddies enjoyed an early meal.
And I guess, football?
Plus there were hats to try on. So, plenty to be thankful for.
Started at dawn again this year. In fact, we actually had to wake Phoebe up in order to be a the sunrise service at 7am. Which reminds me, I’m thrilled to report that Phoebe is now sleeping until 6:30am, sometimes 7am. Daylight savings saved the day (or the night as it were) but I digress.
Villa Borghese was beautiful, if deserted, at dawn.
Then it was home to prepare brunch for friends.
To eat (and eat and eat…) fresh strawberries, eggs with cheese, basil and mushrooms, mustard-roasted potatoes, sticky buns and bread pudding (thanks Ana Maria and Jonathan!)
And to check out a new chick.
Her first holiday has come and gone. Thanksgiving this year was spent with friends–American, Italian, British and Colombian–all eating turkey at Molly and Giuseppe’s gorgeous family villa in Sabina. Except Phoebe. She ate pureed apples. But the eager look on her face definitely said “grateful”, so she gets it.
No, it’s not a mistake that “White Christmas” keeps playing on the radio; today is a bonus holiday in Italy. It’s the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the three wise men’s visit to baby Jesus–plus a feisty witch sidekick.
Shops are closed. Many people are off work, people who don’t work for the UN.
Anyway, it’s the last of the Christmas holidays, described by In Italy Online:
The period between mid-December and early January was one constant celebration even in pagan Rome. It began with the Saturnalia, a winter solstice festival, and ended with the Roman New Year, the Calends. After Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity, instead of ending the holiday at the New Year, the celebration extended to January 6 when the Three Kings were believed to have reached the infant Jesus, and so the Romans, too, began to exchange presents on the Epiphany.
Children in Italy believe in a female version of Santa Claus called La Befana, an old woman who flies on a broom and brings presents. According to Italian legend, Three Wise Men asked La Befana for directions to Bethlehem. La Befana was asked to join them but declined three times. It took an unusually bright light and a band of angels to convince La Befana that she must join the Wise Men, but she was too late. She never found the Christ child and has been searching ever since. On January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, La Befana goes out on her broom to drop off stockings filled with treats to all the sleeping children of Italy. Just as children in America leave milk and cookies for jolly Santa Claus, La Befana collects messages and refreshments throughout the night.
We’re back from a week in the Italian countryside with a big group of friends. The villa was amazing, the kids were hilarious and the adults were…tired! So nice to get out of the city and even better to spend a little time not agonizing about where we’ll live. (More on that shortly.)
Paul and I visited a few neighboring towns, took walks up to a hillside village above the villa and partook in an ill-fated olive oil tasting expedition with friends Dave, Karin and baby Annika (full story to come.)
Most families did some sightseeing during the day then met up for a home cooked meal and a game or movie in the evening. PM and I cooked on the first night, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and curried couscous with Paul’s nearly famous bruschetta pomodoro. What started out as a smokefest thankfully turned into a tasty meal.
Photo finish: Eric put together lots of pictures from a few people’s cameras and we’ve got some snapshots below:
With the holidays around the corner, our group of ex-pats (including a couple traveling in from Amsterdam with their baby daughter) is headed for a villa in Umbria. This region is just north of Rome, south of Tuscany, about two and a half hours out of town…and something I’m deeply looking forward to!
Housed in the villa will be 11 adults, 6 children and one dog (sadly not Carter–next year!). To be sure we’ll have stockings, presents and meals aplenty. Reports of a partridge in a pear tree have not yet been confirmed.
On the activity agenda is a tour and tasting of an olive oil farm/factory and wine tastings for those not with child. Paul and I plan to spend time shopping and meandering the streets of nearby ancient villages (Assisi, Citta Di Castello and more) and at least equally appealing is the idea of watching Christmas movies snuggled up with Christmas cookies, especially for those with child.
Wonder if we could just live here? That would solve the apartment question…