Traveling to Italy with Ricky, Ricky, Ricky Part 3

17 Sep


This is the final addition to my story about visiting Benevento, Amalfi and Capri with my family. My ninety-one-year-old Uncle Mario was still complaining about his lost luggage depending on what he was missing at that moment be it his special razor, binoculars, or toenail trimmer. Ricky’s name was, by now, known all over the Amalfi coast because that’s all my cousins, me, and most of our neighbors would hear whenever my uncle needed anything. “Where’s Ricky?”

Calling on Ricky, Ricky, Ricky for everything had become the norm, and we understood this. Hey, the guy is ninety-one and he was brave enough to go on this trip…plus the airport did lose his suitcase…but Ricky did find a way to disappear if only for a few hours with some hiking and a scooter ride down the coasts. What treasures did Pompeii and Capri offer us before our trip home? Find out after the jump.


The one thing that pleased us all including my uncle who eats like a little bird was the food. Everything is made healthier here and what we Americans consider Italian food…really isn’t. Not here in Italy. The pizza is different and so is the lasagna. Damn! Even the eggs look healthier. But it was the bread that we couldn’t get enough of. What is it about the food in Italy that fills your tummy without filling out your waistband? I think it’s due to the food being fresh, not processed and definitely not GMO.



We went on a day trip to Pompeii to visit a factory/farm that made its own mozzarella followed by a trip to a winery. As soon as we arrived at the mozzarella factory, which I think was called Tenuta Vannulo; we were treated to a dish featuring different types of mozzarella. The owner came out and introduced himself to us and promised us a tour as soon as we were done eating.


Paolo told us that the land behind us was where his herd of 2000 Jersey cows roamed freely. He also had goats and lambs. His bison were located at another farm. Paolo has exclusive rights to the sheep and goat milk in the entire Amalfi coast. He imports to specialty places in the United States

They grow food on the land too. Paolo and other cheese makers use buffalo milk for some of their cheeses. It seems that bison are very popular in Italy. Too bad we don’t appreciate the bison back here in the states. Did you know that bison has less fat than turkey?

Watching how Paolo and his staff worked the curd into what we’ve come to recognize here in the states as toppings for pizza was so interesting. You need strong hands to mold that cheese into shape…and plenty of water. You won’t want store bought mozzarella after tasting fresh…that’s for sure.


Even though we did not stop at the ruins of Pompeii, we did get a good bird’s eye view from our van. I didn’t mind skipping the ruins because, I was afraid of spirit overload if I did visit. This happened to me at the Colosseum in Rome. During that tour, I not only saw visions of the animals that were used during the reign of the Emperors, but I saw the masses of people who attended the ceremonies. I can’t have that many dead people trying to talk to me at one time.

Instead we visited a winery/Catina called Catina del Vesuvio. The guide gave us such interesting information about the soil and the wine. Lacryma Christi, which is an old wine that has been mentioned by poets and writers, is called “The Tears of Christ.” Because of the lava flow from Vesuvio, the guide told us that the lava rock holds the rain water from the rainy season and that they never have to water the grapes. That is so cool.


When we returned to the Catina, we were treated to a wine tasting of five different types of wine produced on that land and we were also served a delicious two-course dinner. Like I said before, the food is presented like the finest art, and the taste, perfecto!

After a day of touring, we came home and played a rousing game of Left/Center/Right. To make it interesting, we played for quarters, but Uncle Mario was not happy that he was losing.


The next day was our trip to the Isle of Capri. We used the Work and Smile golf cart to get down to the pier and wait for the Alcor Ferry to pick us up. I met a fellow American on the ferry and we talked about my writing and books.

As we came closer to Capri, I noticed how blue the water was and how white the cliffs were. I was awestruck with the beauty before me. Is it possible that such beauty exists in a world intent on war and destruction? How can we waste our lives hating each other when there are gems like Capri, the Teton Mountains, the Serengeti, or Amazon River to visit?


Luckily for us, the Alcor offered a personal tour guide to take us around Capri. Giovanni Gargiulo was an excellent tour guide who not only shepherd the people who signed up for the tour to Anacapri (the highest part of Capri) safely onto the tour buses, but he also made sure my uncle got on the bus first because of his age.


Giovanni was well versed in the history of Capri and he was as handsome as the scenery. What can I say about Capri except “WOW!” There are steps that lead from the sea to the top of Capri that the Roman army would climb. The shops are unique and priced where we could actually shop without going bankrupt. The food of course was awesome.


On our last night in Amalfi, we made our way into town for a big festival that ended up on the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. The people in costume represented the king and queen of Amalfi. The town center was packed, but we found a spot to eat and later get ice cream for Uncle Mario.


It was time to leave Italy and although I missed my family, I was sad to go. I had met such wonderful people. The Italians have a passion for life. They are genuinely happy with their lives, and they will go out of their way to help you. They enjoy rather than fear visitors to their land. I will be going back in a few years. I want to visit Benevento again and, I want to visit the town of Maratea. That’s my maiden name. That’s where my father’s family is originally from.

The trip home was uneventful except that I was upgraded to a better seat because the airline had given five people the same seat number. We were almost forced to land in England because someone got sick on the plane, but luckily there was a doctor on board. After arriving in New York, we had to go through customs.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, my suitcase was packed with enough Limoncello bottles to open my own state store, and I had enough packages of pasta to feed the entire family for a week. The spices for the pasta were safely hidden in my clean underwear zipped lock bag so the customs dogs couldn’t smell the packages. When asked if I had any food, I said nope…


As luck would have it, I was pulled over for a random check. Did they find the food? Did the dogs sniff out the hidden spices? Did they pull me over because I’m in a Twitter war with Trump? No, it was only a random check of my passport and then I was free to go. The agent asked if I had anything to declare. My reply, “10 pounds of unwanted weight gain. Can I leave it with you?”


It’s been two weeks since I’ve been home and I feel lost. I have my events to keep me busy: psychic readings and book signings. And, I have my family to keep me busy, but yet I feel lost. I keep looking at the photos from Italy. My heart is there in that land. My roots are there in that land. I need to go back. Maybe Uncle Mario has one more trip left in him.

4 Responses to “Traveling to Italy with Ricky, Ricky, Ricky Part 3”

  1. Sudhir Chauhan September 17, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

    visiting a cheese making unit and winery is an excellent experience…… and its true that pizza made and served in Italy is very different from what is served outside….. your pictures are beautiful…..

    • gilbertspeaks September 17, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

      I think Americans would be much healthier if we ate like Italians.

  2. Victoria Marie Lees October 4, 2017 at 10:24 pm #

    Cheese and bread—my two favorite things, Marie. Poor Ricky and poor Mario. If only the airport lost someone else’s luggage instead of Mario’s. The elderly like their own things. I know my mother-in-law does. She probably wouldn’t let up on it if anyone lost her personal stuff. She’s 93!

    I liked the “Tears of Christ” story! Again, your photos are extraordinary. I’ve got to get to Capri. And yes—I’d love to be able to leave my extra travel weight with customs. I’ve enjoyed your adventures, Marie. I usually do!

    • gilbertspeaks October 5, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

      Thank you Victoria for always having my back. One day, maybe we can go on a vacation together

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