I am sure that Italians have had to give up a lot during the ongoing pandemic, but little could be more difficult than not being able to enjoy their friendly, customary interactions with amici. Anyone who has been in Italy has had wonderful encounters with people they hardly knew, who then became dear friends.

A few years ago, I met the owner of Silvio, a beautiful white mule (fig. 1). He had been a successful merchant in Roma, but the memories of a much easier life at his native village brought him back there. He narrated his life story freely to me, a total stranger, and a new friendship was born! Silvio had often run away for fun, but he has always come back to reassure his master. 

Stefano (fig. 2) is a simple-minded young man who has never left Leonessa, except to go to nearby paesi for their annual festa. He turned out to be a great handyman to help with small jobs around the house, always happy to meet again on the next trip there. Maria (fig. 3) is the owner and the incredible cuoca of Cacio e Pepe, a local trattoria in Anzio we have often visited. Her sister lives in Philadelphia and Maria never forgets that we are the "americani da Ohio" who love her risotto alla pescatora!

The lonely nonna outside a pizza shop with the most unusual street prop (fig. 4) is one of my favorite stories. She would spend most of the day welcoming all the customers and praising the family recipes.

So many other memorable encounters come to mind as I go through my images: the friendly man from the Roman countryside selling delicious prosciutto at an open market (fig. 5) or the bird vendor (fig. 6), very proud of his merchandise. The Umbrian cheese monger (fig. 7) with an infinite supply of salame and other meats and the cook of a Trastevere restaurant (fig. 8), very busy on the phone while the clients keep coming.

Italian kids and soccer are ubiquitous around the country. Never ending games can start almost anywhere with that budding champion practicing his head tricks (fig. 9) for hours while the girls are intent on different games across the square (fig. 10).

A final word on Italians and their dogs; you know they are there, as you find their presence on any sidewalk. Large or small, dogs are a constant presence in many families (fig. 11), very well taken care of and always an integral part of their owners’ life.

I hope you will be able to be back to beautiful Italy soon, to create for yourself and your family many new, wonderful memories.

Buon viaggio!