My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style

Lulu has been practicing a string of Italian songs in preparation for her school’s Christmas Concert – set for later this afternoon.

Although I am still not fluent in Italian, the repertoire includes a ditty about Moses, Jericho, something with a lot of “Hallelujahs”  in it – and then, rather out of the blue, the rousing 1960’s Gospel songOh Happy Day!” Yes, she sings it in English, but slightly off-key and with the cutest Italian accent ever.

Aliotti Elementary kids have been hard at work at school and Lulu has been practicing a lot here at home too – singing while she sets the table, singing in the bathtub, before she goes to bed, you get the idea.

Last night, she grabbed a baton and began “conducting” a choir of her stuffed animals.  She sang pretty loudly. I didn’t hear much from them, however.


Lulu will be joining her fellow classmates to sing in an impressive 11th century stone church in the historic center of our adopted medieval town here in Arezzo.

The 11th century pieve where Lulu and her classmates will be singing
The 11th century pieve where Lulu and her classmates will be singing

It’s called the Santa Maria della Pieve and it is festooned in columns and carvings and stands guard overlooking the town’s main pedestrian shopping street, Corso Italia.

Pieve04There’s even a gold-cased relic inside that supposedly holds the head of Arezzo’s patron Saint – St. Donato (who apparently was beheaded up the hill near where the duomo now stands and his head rolled down here! – His body is enshrined up at the duomo.  I am not making this up!).

St. Donato's head.
St. Donato’s head.

Tour groups often stop in front of it and get lectures from their flag-holding guides.

When I was a kid, I sang in a few Christmas concerts. A couple in my tiny school’s auditorium or gymnasium. A few at the tiny little Methodist church we attended in Parker City, Indiana

But never in an eleventh century Italian church – complete with Saint’s head.

Oh my.

Merry Christmas, tutti!!


My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Mariano's Ristorante - just off of Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Italy!  Tell them Gina sent you!
Mariano’s Ristorante – just off of Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Italy! Tell them Gina sent you!

Here is the rather unassuming entrance to Mariano’s Ristorante in our adopted hometown of Arezzo, Italy.  Walk toward Piazza Grande, turn right past the ancient – and still trickling – fountain, up the narrow cobbled street and it’s about half-way along the path on your right.  Voila! Er, I mean Ecco! 

The couple who owns this small eatery,  Gianfranco and Chef – and namesake – Mariano – go out of their way to make you feel more like you walked into a good friend’s home, rather than a formal dining room.

Just last week when I popped in with a couple of girlfriends for a quick holiday cocktail, Gianfranco set down an assortment of cute little appetizers with our bubbly prosecco flutes that were delicious, unexpected and – Merry Christmas! – FREE!

Have high ceilings you don't know what do do with? Hang a tree or six from them!
Have high ceilings you don’t know what do do with? Hang a tree or six from them!

Dinner here is always an original twist on traditional Tuscan.   And, like the upside- down decorated Christmas trees hanging now from the rafters, these pleasant surprises are what always make me want to come back!

Bravi, gentlemen, and see you again soon!

And for the rest of you out there – where’s your favorite holiday hang-out?

Baci, Gina

My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Arezzo's Porta San Lorentino this week.
Arezzo‘s Porta San Lorentino this week.

Let there be lights!!

Arezzo, our adopted hometown here in Tuscany, like so many other cities around the world, is now awash in festive holiday lights.

While our little medieval town may not have the budget, say, of a New York or London, its light display gets an added boost simply by the fact that the twinkling orbs are framed by 500-year-old stone buildings or archways.

Above you in the photo, is the ancient gateway into the town’s historic center – or just the same old same old path that Lulu and I walk to and from twice a week to get from our house to her dance lessons.  Just your run-of-the-mill-Medici portal!!! 😉

So, even though there may not be a myriad of colors or dazzling animatronic window displays, Arezzo’s quaint sparkles charm both Lulu and me and remind us of the long-held and wonderful holiday of which we are celebrating.

Lights, Lights, Luci!  And Lulu!
Lights, Lights, Luci! And Lulu!

Buone Feste, tutti!!

Baci, Gina

P.S.  I remember back in the States queuing and waiting.. to drive through certain spandangled neighborhoods…  Any special warm holiday light displays where you are?


My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style

You know it’s Christmastime when the store fronts are covered in red, green, snowflakes, St. Nick (Babbo Natale here) and the like.

One of our favorite little family-run places on Arezzo's via Madonna del Prato
One of our favorite little family-run places on Arezzo’s via Madonna del Prato

All of our favorite restaurants, cafes and coffee shops are decorated with charming touches.  Coffee shops are really called “bars” here.  It never ceases to make me laugh to hear my six-year-old daughter say – like she did this morning before we walked to her school – “Can we first stop over at the bar?!?

I promise we’re only getting a pastry and sometimes I get a coffee – but never an alcoholic beverage – which they also sell – so the name really does make sense!  It’s all about the bar that you stand in front of to eat behind – not about the beverage.. Wonder why we Americans limit the word to the saloon-type establishments..

Anyway, you really know it’s holiday time when even the local butchers get into the spirit.  Here’s one of our neighborhood macelleria all festooned in holiday swag.

A meat cutter and decorator..
A meat cutter and decorator..

Time to get your Christmas on!

Buone feste, tutti!

Baci, Gina

My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Yesterday, my Advent Calendar was interrupted by .. a wicked bout of stomach flu blech.. but today we resume our regularly scheduled programming: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Here’s Lulu and the Italian Santa – aka Babbo Natale – from yesterday when Daddy took her out to see him her in Arezzo at Piazza Guido Monaco.  I was sick in bed.


And yes, that is a GIANT jar of Nutella in the background.

How does Santa look compared to what your area has? What do you think?


Lulu enjoyed her time and asked him for a “family of cats.” Yow!

Buone Festa, tutti!

As for me, as it is a law that mommies can only be sick for 36 hours, I am back now and no longer in bed…however, not feeling 100 percent.. .. ah, well, hope the rest of the family doesn’t catch the bug!

Baci, Gina

My Advent Calendar – Christmas ITALIAN Style

The cathedral, or duomo, in our adopted hometown of Arezzo.


It was built in the 13th century after Pope Gregory X had the misfortune to die here in Arezzo on his way to lead a Crusade!  The money he had with him became part of the funds used to build the church – and good old Greg is interred inside.  Making Arezzo one of those rare places, other than Rome, that has a Pope!

Interestingly, the Conclave to select Gregory’s successor was also held in Arezzo and not down the way at the Vatican.

Every Christmas, a life-size nativity scene, or presepe, is erected inside the cathedral.  I think it’s being put up this weekend, in fact.  When I get some photos, you’ll be the first to see!

Buone Feste, tutti!

Baci, Gina

My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Today’s Advent Calendar – Christmas ITALIAN Style:


When you don’t have chimneys, here’s how Santa (Babbo Natale) brings your presents!


We also saw plenty of them when we lived in Paris… Do you have these kinds of Santas where you live?

Buone Feste, tutti!!