Be Italian

by Lena

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To be able to taste and understand the real Italian life, one needs to get away, as far as possible, from the hustle and bustle of the over-exposed cities such as Rome, where you are offered guide books and menu’s in 10 languages.

Why the hell do all roads lead to Rome?! In my opinion, they should lead about 40 kilometers south of Rome…

To the beautiful peacefulness that is CORI and to all its surrounding beauty, that is Latina.

To those who don’t know, Cori is even older than Rome.

For 5 days, I have lived, laughed, ate and breathed like a true Italian, in my very own

La Dolce Vita…

( all photos of me are taken by Luana Thomas © DesignmediaSpa )

The real Italian life is very different from the one you see in Rome… Most people who come to Italy, for some strange reason, only go to “main” attractions…. why? That would be my question. Do you really think, that by snapping a picture by the over-crowded Trevi Fountain or sitting on your ass next to a Japanese tourist on The Spanish Steps, will give you a sense of Italy and all its magic? I only managed several hours in Rome… did not like it! In a few hours I got to see about 10 huge tourist groups with different colored flags, god forbid you get lost in Rome! Right?That would be the end of the world for some folks! Can you imagine those clowns in the jungle of Uganda?

Seeing these groups make me truly ill. Think I will give Rome another chance next time.. but it will be from 5am – 9am (only) I do have 1 Rome story for you ~ While Luana was taking a picture of me, eating gelato at the Spanish steps, 2 Korean gals approached me and asked “I’m sorry, can I please take a picture with you. You look so elegant and you look just like Audrey Hepburn in that film!” Of course I said ok. Luana took their camera, girl came over to me and we posed for the shot. Actually, strike that! The gal posed… I was too busy eating my gelato.

Who has a Rome story like that? I told Luana “You see, darling, I will never go hungry! I can put on my little black dress and pearls, buy a gelato and pose for photos.”… We laughed.

After about a few hours I couldn’t wait to escape this chaos and return to my peaceful little gem ~ Cori.

Remember I told you, that the most amazing Olive Oil I ever tried, was in Cori… Well, I’m not lying… It really is! ~ AGRICOLA DE SANTIS. You know you are an olive oil addict, when for a mid-day snack, you drown your fresh pieces of bread into a bowl of Olive Oil and savor it for about an hour with a glass of wine.

I loved standing by my own window in my apartment, enjoying my oil and watching life go by. The sounds of bells from the nearby Cathedral, the kids playing football and a waving hand from the opposite building’s window, made me feel as if I was a part of a true Italian life. This type of life goes way beyond a picture by the trevi fountain. It lifts you up from everything you thought Italy was and wraps you into a silky embrace of its passion. It surprises you with honest, pure and fleeting moments from big Italian hearts. Every time I find myself near over-exposed city in Italy, I frantically search for that quite little street corner or a hidden local fountain, by which I can once again, be taken to that place, where I was so happy…

But when you are truly accepted by a place, is when two local women notice that you, thankfully, put more clothes on yourself, than 2 days ago…

elena levon luana thomas photography design media spa cori italy latina ninfa gardens dolce vita dolce gabbana vespa be italian style photoshoot - 08If you are looking for a true Italian trademark, such as Vespa, from “Roman Holiday” in Rome… you will be disappointed to find mostly new motorcycles and ferrrari’s..Good luck, trying finding Vespa in a chaotic, touristy, overcrowded and a sardine-packed Rome! However, my neighbor in Cori, owned his very own yellow Vespa…

Having a photo shoot in a small town like Cori is incredibly entertaining for locals. They took out their cellphones and tried snapping pictures without being too obvious…

But the moment when I realized that I have become a real resident of Cori, was when I was returning home from a grocery store. Since Cori is set within the hills, it’s not an easy walk up to the apartment. With every passing coblestone, you sense history and energy of this town. I masterfully walked up the hill with my bags and got lost in thoughts… Passed by a local poster that had a name “Filumena” within it’s title. This name reminded me of the main character in “Marriage Italian Style”, played by Film Icon, Sophia Loren. It happens to be one of my favorite films of all times and Ms. Loren is one of my favorite actors. As I was remembering some comedic moments from the film and laughing to myself, I get awaken back into reality by some car’s beeping sound… “am I taking too much of the road?” – thought to myself. Then the car leveled with me and I saw an older gentleman from the day before, whom lend his Vespa to Luana and I, for our photo shoot. He offered to give me a ride to my apartment. I thanked him, but declined. I didn’t want an easy way out… Italians don’t do “easy”.

And the cobblestones whispered… “BE ITALIAN…”

You can not be a true Italian and count calories! Our image-obsessed society of today, can go screw themselves! I’m gonna eat! I’m on a “see food diet”… I see food, I eat it! This is the reason I NEVER buy beauty magazines! Hollywood and the whole damn beauty industry can Argo, Fuck Yourself!  Women and young girls around the world become ill and some even die, because of a bunch of multi-billion dollar assholes, that dictate what a beautiful woman should look like, act like and fuck like. Italian women, god bless them, look and act feminine! Ladies, there’s NOTHING sexy about looking like a stick! When I look at some A-list Hollywood stars I wanna buy them a triple big mac and large french fries. I was relieved, that in Italy I was able to share food with people who don’t give a shit about how many calories they ate today!

elena levon luana thomas photography design media spa cori italy latina ninfa gardens dolce vita dolce gabbana vespa be italian style photoshoot - 2Food in Italy is my most favorite love affair of all! I tried my very first Italian Pizza at Ristorante Pizzeria Vesuvio in Cori  We went there with Luana and her family. The man who makes this incredible pizza is not only a fantastic cook, but also a piano virtuoso. Domenico Cuccarese is an incredibly talented artist! After dinner he entertained everyone by performing a few sets. I stood there by a piano, like I used to do when I was a little girl, listening to my father’s piano performances. There was a very funny moment that happened in that local Pizzeria… As we were sharing food, I kept hearing the door buzzer downstairs. “Why are they not letting people inside?” I asked. Luana broke down in laughter and said through tears “Elena, that’s not a door buzzer… that sound is to let them know that the order is ready” I haven’t laughed like that in a long time… When you are laughing through tears, while sharing the most delicious pizza and listening to some outstanding piano performance, you know, that this can not possibly get more Italian! 

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Or can it?

I was in for a big surprise! The next day, Luana invited me to her friend’s place for lunch. Little did I know, that on that very day, Italy would completely unveil itself to me, in the most deliciously unforgettable way! Have already tried the most amazing Olive Oil, but today I was given an opportunity to taste the most INCREDIBLE ITALIAN WINE!

I was introduced to the most welcoming and warm people! The De Gregorio Family! This was an unforgettable several hour lunch! We sat outside on the grass, savoring Italian and a couple Greek dishes and taken part in a wine tasting ceremony. I kicked my shoes off and ran barefoot on the grass under the spring rain. When you are in Latina, you must stop by this place and have lunch! Their wines and food are made with so much love, that you can easily detect it in every sip and in every bite.

We laughed, joked and ate!

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I felt like I was a part of a family. It seemed that I knew Luana, Andrea, Alessandra, Andrea and Vladimiro all my life. It was really hard to top off this family lunch… but what followed was truly a mind-blowing experience. De Grigorio family invited me and Luana to an Italian fairytale! The place I was about to enter was a true Italian Heaven! It is hidden within Latina, the Lazio region of Italy. Not even every Italian knows about it. When Princess Diana was on her one and only visit to Italy, this was the place she came to. And I can see why.

 It is by far, the most peaceful place I have ever stepped foot on.

Does heaven exist?

Yes, and the name of this heaven on earth is NINFA GARDENS

While all tourists and 1 hour tour buses, swirling in a crazed routine, to see all the “must see” spots around Rome and standing in sardine-like lines to see coliseum, I was being embraced by nature and history of my very own slice of Heaven ~ Ninfa. The ancient town with all the wild nature that surrounds it. I’d rather spend my days in this heaven, than take “that stupid shot” by some leaning Italian building.

This was also the place where Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren had their photo shoot… and that’s where I also posed for a few shots…

Ninfa is were past & present become ONE…

How many people who visit Italy, can say that they tried their hand in a croissant-making fiasco at a local bakery?…

I’m a terrible cook! The shape of whatever it is that I made, most definitely doesn’t resemble a croissant…

But do you know how you can tell when you didn’t just visit, but actually LIVED in a country? When you meet people you know from one part of the country in the opposite one. I ran into Alessandra & Vladimiro from that wonderful lunch in Latina… in Lecce. Lecce is a gorgeous little town in Southern Italy, about 7 hours by train from Latina. I had only a few hours in Lecce before my departure to Florence. Alessandra & Vladimiro were stunned when they saw me in Lecce. We’ve spent about an hour and a half walking around Lecce together and I almost missed my train, because towns like Lecce, have countless hidden treasures… just around the corner.

Looking back at my time in Cori, Ninfa and Lecce, I can honestly say, that nothing will ever be as Italian as my time in those places.

And it’s not because of those towns alone… it’s because of people who live there and who have welcomed me into their families!

I’m honored to be a part of this Italian family!

I have breathed this Dolce Vita with my whole soul and I am forever grateful for being able to feel its pulse in my veins…

Today, I really do know, what it means to


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 The woman behind the words …

” Memories “

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