Visiting Nonna (and Nonno’s) Courtship


29 December 2013

After a dream filled sleep, I woke up with a bucketful of writing inspiration. The rain clouds were rolling out and the sun was finally casting a spotlight over Bogliasco, its beauty vast and splendid.

I have always found northern Italy to be one of the most beautiful regions of Italy.

Towards the north, hills hover over a town spilled over the blue sea with its dark sand, pebbles crashing against each other like the sound of bamboo being rained on. To the north Palm trees, cacti, and aloes grow like wild dandelions, some gripping to the stone walls built centuries ago by conquering Romans and later by various kingdoms, the French, the Germans, the Austrians, and the united Italian republic. Sometimes, I think the Genoese don’t believe they are Italians and stand proudly, almost vain about how much better they are than southern Italians.

To the northwest, you could see low ranging Apennine Mountains sitting at the end of the horizon like dark clouds and hovering even higher and further beyond, rested the Alps like a kingdom of snow upon cloudy heavens.
Apennine Mountains

To the southeast, the hills sloped down into the water, snuggled between were the town of Sori and Recco. At night, the city light would glow like clusters of fireflies.

Nightfall on the beach, you could see the stars, dusting the sky. Orion clung low on the horizon like the winter’s guardian constellation.

By day, local Genoese would come out. The sideway, the beach, and the passeggiata a mare have benches lined out, wrapped around trees, cuddled into the stoned walls. At 50° Fahrenheit, locals were bundled in bubble jackets and parkas. Meanwhile, I strolled with a sweater as my jacket as for me, this was by far, much better than a New York weather.

I spent the morning by the porch, overlooking some beautiful estate as sun spilled over the sea. Writing, having coffee, I was told, I was having the European writer life. Post lunch was on the beach drawing.
view of sea

Before lunch, which was a light fare of focaccia, grissini, and bresaolo, I took photos, spending an hour on just the waves. You don’t get blue waves on dark rocks like these at Coney Island.

We visited Nonna who at 95 isn’t at her best but she still is lucid and converses normally, despite some hearing disability. My Italian isn’t that great so I don’t speak but I can understand some stories she talked about. I asked how she met Nonno and the proposal.


She was seventeen years old when they met. It was in Bologna where her parents owned a restaurant that was also a dance hall.

Cesarina. She loved to dance. Especially the tango. She danced every night.

It was war time. Soldiers came in and out of town, marching like boys on a mission, so proud and brave. At the time, war was an honorable ambition, full of adventures and wonders. It is not the way we view war anymore. The dance hall had been used as a barrack but every Saturday night, to keep normalcy in town, the army would clear the hall and have a town dance.

Nonno is called Amedeo and he was an officer stationed in Bologna, where while at the dance hall, he met her.

He did not like to dance. But she danced into his heart. And surely plenty of other men’s hearts.

During those days, dating was unheard of and men and women were not allowed to be alone. So for their first date, he asked her to the movies. She went with her parents as chaperone, her aunts and uncles and friends all joining in to watch this movie. Hand holding was forbidden.

It was considered an absolute scandal those days when someone would date a foreigner, a man from the seaside mountains! You dated and married a local. Can you imagine their thoughts on youths these days who meet online?

After all, he was in the army. It was a short courtship. Less than a year.

He proposed, going down on one knee, asking her to be his wife.

She said yes.

But her father said, he would never leave Bologna. So they stayed for 20 years before moving to Genoa.

She said she was lucky because most people who marry knowing so little about each other would end up hating each other. But they became friends and despite passion fading, their love for each other remained. They stayed married for 47 years until he died in 1983.

Wouldn’t one want to hope that one’s own marriage could even last long these days?