Dear Nonna,

29 Apr

I’m writing to you almost a year to the anniversary of your passing. Words can’t describe how difficult it’s been not being able to share this unbelievable experience with you. As my time in Rome quickly winds down, I have started to realize the toll it’s taken on me. Specifically, I wish I could watch your face light up as I explain my experience meeting our Roman family.

Our family and our roots definitely influenced my decision to study in Rome. Hearing you, dad, and Auntie Janet tell stories of your time with our family in Rome made me jealous and I felt that I deserved something similar. Unforgettable. Something I could pass on to my children and grandchildren. As we have seen, time is precious and we can’t put off to tomorrow what we can do today. And so I didn’t.

Yesterday was my last Sunday in Rome. I should be studying for finals, but how do I convince myself that it’s Finals Week when I haven’t even been able to convince myself that I’ve actually been in school this semester. Having met your cousin, Cinzia, in the center of Rome for lunch a few times this semester, she thought this would be the best time to organize for me to meet the rest of the family.


We lucked out with the nicest day I think Rome has seen this year. After a quick stroll through town – graced by an accordion player over the Tiber, past the Pantheon, down Via del Corso, and through Piazza del Spagna (man, I’m gonna miss that walk) – I hopped on the Metro line for the 2nd time all semester.

Cinzia and her boyfriend Massimo picked me up from a stop on Via Appia and we drove out of the city. To my surprise, we made a quick pit stop before lunch. They introduced me to Castel Gandolfo: the summer and vacation residence of the Pope located on the breathtaking Lago Albano.

Pope Benedict, where you at!

Pope Benedict, where you at!


Cinzia and Massimo

Cinzia and Massimo

Pope Benedict is still there from when he was helicoptered after his resignation!

On his way to Castel Gandolfo

On his way to Castel Gandolfo

Massimo doesn’t speak much English, but wanted to use what he knew as much as he could whereas I’m the same way with my Italian, so we got by perfectly! It was beautiful to see a piece of Rome, outside of the loud and hectic city.

We went on to meet the rest of the family at the restaurant where they told me they go whenever they have something to celebrate, Tigellino, in the town of Genzano. I met Cinzia’s brother Pepe, his wife and their 16 year old daughter, and your first cousin Maria and her husband, Franco. The minute I kissed Pepe he said right away that I’m my father, the big smile was the dead giveaway. Everyone looks well and healthy. Franco was a big jokester, and Maria definitely reminded me of you, Nonna. With her big nootsies, culo, and smile, it felt like I was sitting next to you again. Her granddaughter kept leaning her head on Maria’s shoulder and kissing her cheek and it reminded me of smooching your cheeks and jiggling your culo every time I walked in the house.


They went all out for this seafood lunch. Paired with our regional spumante we had calamari, anchovies, squid, mini fried squid, marinated eggplant, and fried baccala to start, then linguine alle vongole, gnocchi alle vongole e gamberi, and spaghetti alle pescatore, insalate miste, sorbetto and cake. As I’ve learned, no meal is complete without an espresso and glass of grappa to wash it all down.

Cinzia and Franco with their sorbetto

Cinzia and Franco with their sorbetto

We passed around pictures of your mom, Nonna Concetta, my parents when they visited on their honeymoon (Big Rich rockin a fanny pack), Auntie Janet when she was Tina’s age and visited, and miscellaneous pictures of Uncle Benny, Auntie Betty, and the girls.

Auntie Janet

Auntie Janet

Blurry, but mom and dad's honeymoon visit

Blurry, but mom and dad’s honeymoon visit

They told me all about their place in Fossalto and how much fun they had packing everyone into the tiny house when everyone flew out to visit. They asked about EVERYONE: your brother and Auntie Betty, Jo, Sue, Mari, Theresa, (whipped out pictures of Lisa), all of your sons, and was asking about Auntie Janet and Tina. I wish I had everyone with me to share this memory with.


All of the men dipped out quickly because the Roma v. Siena game was starting and they needed to get back to the house before they missed anything. We trailed behind and met them at Maria and Franco’s house in Ariccia. 

DSCN3024 DSCN3026

It was a beautiful property, screw Florida, I want to retire here. The minute I got out of the car, Franco started showing me all of his proud garden work. From the nutmeg tree to the pomegranate and cherry trees, to the mint, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and pepper plants. For a second, I thought I was back in my backyard and Big Rich had aged a good 30 years. I got a tour of the house and they pointed out which furniture belonged to your aunt, they even have a beautiful pillow case framed from her wedding night. It really made me want to come home and see what I can find in all of your stuff.

The family

The family

Franco and Maria

Franco and Maria


It kills me that I can’t directly share this memory with you, but I know you were looking down on us and probably got pissed when I didn’t pass a piece of cake up to you. Franco and Maria were already asking me when I would be back, and it saddened me that I couldn’t say. I wish I didn’t have to leave Rome. I will never forget yesterday.

I had been looking forward to it for weeks and now that it’s over, it has definitely fueled the sadness of my departure.

My sweet Nonna

My sweet Nonna

I miss you everyday Nonna and I love you,



12 Responses to “Dear Nonna,”

  1. Jill April 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Marlo you made me cry. Again! What an unforgettable experience to share with your family. Im happy you realize hoe fortunate you are and how much family means. You more than any other study a broaders have lived this experience to the fullest. Still waiting for your last posts on the Amalfi coast and cinque terra and then your final week in Rome. You will be back, if that is your goal because so far you have attained them all. Miss you dearly. Love you, mom

  2. Maryellen Marisie April 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Beautiful Marlo!
    So happy you had this experience! I think you and all your cousins should go and you can be their guide!

    • marlomarisie April 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      Love the idea! First a family trip out to Cali and then one to Italy! I’m so down!

  3. Debra A. Terlato April 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    OMG – Marlo, I can’t stop crying and know that Nonna was right there with you for sure! You deserved this trip more than anyone because you relished every little detail. I hope we don’t lose you to Italia one day!!! Miss you! Thank you for sharing every experience with us. We got to leave the US every time you blogged.

    I don’t know how to spell this but I will do it phonetically.

    Ari Va Der Chi Roma!!! But not forever!!

    Love you, Auntie Deb xo

    • marlomarisie April 29, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      Hahah thanks Auntie Deb! Wait till it’s Lise’s turn! I’m glad you’ve all enjoyed my stories (half of which are nonsense)! Can’t wait to see you all soon. Hope I didn’t miss too much at home! Love you!

  4. Rich daddy April 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Thank You!

    I Love You,

  5. Michael spidale April 30, 2013 at 2:08 am #

    Well, THAT GIRL, Marlo, this one is the topping on the gelato!

    Nonna was enjoying, along with you, her family. I truly believe it. Sorry, this time will
    be over soon but you will always have the most wonderful memories. Can’t wait to see your face. With lots of love, your Nani Judy

  6. Auntei G April 30, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    My Sweet Marlo, I truly believe Your Nonna has been with you throughout Rome, keeping you safe and watching her granddaughter relish in ALL! You have made me laugh, and cry throughout your blog, but most of all I really was able to picture every thing you experienced. You have a gift with writing. I am so thrilled you have had this opportunity and am Proud to call you My Niece. Enjoy your last few days in Europe Mar! Cannot wait till our Marzipan is home and I can give you hugs and kisses. I Love You Girl, Auntie G

    • marlomarisie April 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Awhhh thanks Auntie G!! Can’t wait to come home and see you all! Also, I haven’t been able to get any of Auntie G’s famous meatballs out here and mine didn’t come close! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon! Love you!

  7. Janet Rogalla May 1, 2013 at 12:05 am #


    Thank you for all the beautiful memories. Nonna is so proud of you, and couldn’t ask for a better granddaughter. The pictures of our family in Italy affirms a trip to see them. Nonna always wanted to go back to Italy, but she said she wouldn’t want to come home if she did. I’m sure she was with you the whole time you where out there. Thanks again for writing about all your experiences. They made me feel like I was traveling around with you. You are a wonderful niece and I love and miss you very much. Now get your cute ass home so we can make more wonderful family memories.

    • marlomarisie May 1, 2013 at 2:06 am #

      It’s amazing how your comment can make me cry! I completely understand where Nonna was coming from. I hope you know that I’m looking forward to seeing you more than anything! St. Patty’s Day and Spring break pictures have made me unbelievably jealous and I can’t wait to show my Auntie Janet what Italy has done to me 😉 Love you!!!

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