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17 Feb 2015

Italy: From Stranger to Native

Mocked routinely in reference to their wartime episode, this young nation is unfairly maligned for enjoying life and for a culture where ordinary people treat each other with respect and courtesy.

For the first time this week, I feel I can get under its skin, and explore it from a native's perspective.
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This time yesterday I had no idea about the next photograph.  Like a lion closing in on its kill, I now have the whole story trapped in my pretty jaw.  I had never previously thought much of Italy. The grey skies of Santa Margherita La Figueres and its doomy town were enough to put me off forever.  But really, this is because I do not like the seaside.  Introduce me to the mountain slopes and I am fast interested.  I approached this will with scepticism:
'I leave to my niece Alice Barone or her husband Raffaele Barone the residue of my estate' - Edith Taylor
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This lady won't be Italian (example)! Any more than the Corleones are Italian, or Papa John's Pizza, or sodding Dolmio sauce.  Or perhaps more appositely, Ragu.

I braced myself to comb through directories of retired Italian Americans in Florida and outer New York state.  Still no sign of Alice Barone.  Was she in fact, an actual Italian?

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The 1929 shipping record showed: Arthur Taylor, 45, secretary (YMCA), sailing from England to New York giving an address in Rome - that's Rome in Italy to give it the space on the page it deserves.

Subsequent shipping records coughed up the proof that Arthur Taylor of Italy was indeed born in Windermere.  And here he is, we think, outside the property he loved, on the slopes of the Alps.  Not a grey cloud in sight, and definitely no cagoules or misleading palm trees (take note Santa Margherita!).
The very same weekend, I determined to find if cousin Caroline was still living in Italy.  She was preposterously easy to find - as no doubt she intends.  She runs a guesthouse.  The guesthouse contained the most complicated set of directions I have ever seen.  Coming from the other way?  'I can't be bothered to type it all out backwards so follow your nose and call me from the church.'
 The power of three is a well known literary device.  Forgive if my heart isn't in it, at all.  Yes this is the Third Italian Connection.  I would much prefer to go back to the alps, to the first one and find out a lot more about the folks in Pinerolo.  What was wartime like there - why did their only girl go to Sicily and does anyone remember her?  Who were her childhood playmates.  And, yes, if you're still interested here is the third connection.
Sadly the Merifields had no family.  I am sure the Landuccis had a great story to tell - but it isn't mine, quite.

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