Buon Natale

With the holidays quickly approaching I thought an interesting topic would be Thanksgiving in Italy. But seeing as that’s a mostly American holiday I decided Christmas would be best. Christmas is celebrated in Italy from December 24 to January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. In Italy Babbo Natale or Father Christmas comes much like Santa does here in the US however the main day of gift giving is on the Epiphany, though gift giving is slowly becoming more popular on Christmas Day. Popular traditions such as Christmas Trees, decorations and Lights are also rising in popularity, usually begging to appear around December 8th,  Feast of the Immaculate Conception. For my family the Holiday season also ends on the 6th of January. This is a tradition my Grandmother used to have and so therefore my mother has also adopted. However we start decorating much earlier than the 8th. Usually the lights go on very early due to family visits and just overall convenience and the house is decorated the weekend after we celebrate Thanksgiving.




I wanted to avoid speaking of opera for as long as possible, but I could wait no longer. In my last post I have decided to share to glory of “Tosca”.Image


Composed by Giacomo Puccini, this three act tragedy is about a painter (Mario Cavaradossi) in love with an famous singer, (Floria Tosca). Tosca is admired by more than a painter, though, for Baron Scarpia, the chief of police, desires her as well.

Taking place during the threat of Napoleonic invasion in Rome, Italy, the opera’s atmosphere already starts with a melodramatic tension. Cavaradossi has found an escape from the dangers of the outside world by staying inside a church, painting Mary Magdelene. The Sacristan brings him food and points out how this painting resembles the famous singer, Floria Tosca. The first aria “Recondita armonia” is Cavardossi comparing the beauty of Mary to the beauty of his lover, Tosca, while also pointing out the differences. Unconvinced that Cabardossi is avoiding sacrilege, the Sacristan leaves.

Scarpia, while the villain, is my favourite character. He is devious and uses his position to obtain what he desires. He’s also the baritone, showing off his evil intentions and impressive range in “Ha più forte sapore“.

I don’t want to tell too much of the opera, because it is very romantic and has quite a few plot twists in it, but I will say it is one of the best operas for women who enjoy strong female characters. Often in operas, the woman is torn between two men and let the men duke it out, but with Tosca, she makes her own decisions…and suffers those consequences.

I do not have a favourite that has portrayed any of these characters, but the movie version was the first opera recording I ever bought.  It sparked my passion when I was a junior in high school (four years ago!) and I still enjoy listening to it when I can.

Carbone’s recently celebrating 75 years!



Nat (Left) and his wife Mary (right).

Carbone’s restaurant dates back to the 1930’s when Crabtree was a booming company town, mining coal with coke ovens all around. The Great Depression hit Crabtree very hard. Mines and the coke plant closed down. When it did shut down, the Jamison family put up their company buildings for sale. One of these buildings could have been bought for only 200 bucks! in ’36 Nat Jr. and Mary bought the big community building. The upstairs of the building was for bands, roller skating and dances. The downstairs was a confectionary store, bowling alleys and barber shop. So Mary and Nat fixed up an apartment upstairs and kept just the barber shop downstairs. A little whiles after it was opened up, someone asked if Mary would make food for them, so she made sandwiches and soups. Oh if she only knew what she started. The food became really popular and people were lining up for it. Realizing the potential and popularity, in ’38 Nat Jr. thought he’d get a liquor license since the prohibition was over. Mary wanted no part of this beer hall. She said “Did you want a business partner or a wife?”. So no go on the liquor license, until the next day. Mary said “A restaurant yes! a beer-hall – no! And it has to be a family restaurant!” So the legacy of being a family owned, family operated, oriented restaurant was born, and going strong today.





Antonio Del Pollaiolo

Antonio Del Pollaiolo was an amazing artist in the 15th century who made in impact before Leonardo de Vinci started being known.  He was an Italian painter, sculptor, engravers and goldsmith. He shows us these beautiful distinct bodies. His use of anatomy is phenomenal he was the first artist that used dissection in the body. This was illegal back in the day, but what artists wasn’t a rebel. One of his pieces you would notice the anatomy study of the male nude was called the Battle of the Ten Nudes, ca 1465. He wanted to show his patrons how much he knows. Now this art is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. He started a new level of art with the realism. He also pleased the rich trying to give them what they want. This is when people were interested in mythology. His mythology piece is called Apollo and Daphne a painting in, which Florence is behind her. Once Apollo touched Daphne trees crew out of her arms that is the myth.


Palazzo Madama in Turin

Turin is one of Italy’s beautiful northern cities and at the hear of it lades Palazzo Madama. Palazzo Madama houses Turin’s municipal museum of ancient art. This museum covers four different floor starting with the basement were the medieval stonework collection sets the perfect environment for the stone sculptures and jewelry. The palazzo also has a Treasure Tower, were you will find the Portrait of a Man by Antonello da Messina. The upper floors house a range from the art of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance. This all set on the background of the beautiful 15th century castle. They also show art of the 18th and 19th century.  You will see a range of art from paintings, ceramics, ivories, jewelry, fabrics, glasswork, and much more. They offer several tours and one can get lost in the colorful and magical world of Italian art. 




The tower of Pisa is most famously known for it’s distinctive lean (and the horrible pictures that are often taken with hundreds of tourists). The reason behind the tilt is the ground was not strong enough to hold up the tower completely straight. The tower when measured on one side would be 183 feet, and the other (due to the lean) is 185 feet! One of the most famous events that have happened regarding the tower is (reportedly) Galileo Galilei dropping two cannonballs of varying mass at the same time from the tower to demonstrate the speed of falling is not dependent on the mass of the object. More recently, teams of engineers have been working on stabilizing the tower, because without it, it was structurally unsafe. The Leaning Tower of Pisa leans at an angle of 3.99 Degrees, but before the re-stabilization work, it leaned at an angle of 5.5 Degrees. If the tower was perfectly straight, the top of the tower would be 12 feet and 10 inches higher than what it stands at currently. Interestingly enough, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is not the only famous leaning structure, but it most definitely the most well known!


The gondolas are a popular attraction in Venice, Italy.  It has been theorized that gondolas have been used since around 697 AD, but only 1094 AD has been a confirmed year of early use due to documentation.  The early need for gondolas were due to the lagoons in Venice.   Because of the shallow areas and mud flaps, the boats were crafted to float easily in low water levels.  In the earlier installments of these boats there were small, enclosed cabins called “felze” with wide uses for the passengers.  They could shield from the rain or sun and protect the riders’ privacy.  This was sometimes used to help criminals escape as well.  And for now the tradition stands that men drive the gondolas with a single oar.  Women are allowed to test to become gondola drivers, but so far none have passed these tests.

Gondolas are more complex than a simple boat.  They are now designed to have the off center imbalanced look by weighing the boats against the drivers.  They are also made from eight different types of wood (cherry, oak, walnut, elm, mahogany, lime larch, and fir).  The oars are made from beech and each gondola has a rowlock to allow different types of maneuvers.

The most common uses for gondolas today are mainly tourist attractions, weddings, and quick crossings of the Grand Canal.  Most of them have a dark finish and a clean, decorated look to them.