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Books Now In Paperback

I listened carefully to many of my readers who enjoyed the digital and audio versions of my books. Most wanted to see these available in paperback as well. After a couple of years of work, all but two of my books are now available in paperback. They have been sized at 5 by 8 (for all of you travelers) and are modestly priced.

You can find all of my books in their available formats here: https://www.amazon.com/Allen-E.-Rizzi/e/B00B3L8PYS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Enjoy and please remember to leave a review. They are much appreciated.

Thanks,

Allen

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One Fine Day

Every day has the possibility of being great. The trick, it seems, is in recognizing greatness as it unfolds and before it slips away.

Peering into the forest above the village of Tret, I wondered at the distance to the lake. The sign at the beginning of the trail stated the distance as one kilometer. The late September afternoon was hot and dusty and the lure of a cool mountain lake called to me. So, up the mountain and into the forest I hiked seeking Lago di Santa Maria. Surely, I would be there in less than twenty minutes.

A half an hour later, I stopped and rested on a rock outcropping. Taking stock of my surroundings, I wondered what life might have been like for my forefathers. From my vantage point, I could see the opposite side of the valley and the shadows that were cast down into the heart of the Val di Non. Many years before, this land had been home to my family. While on vacation with my wife, I was drawn to Lago di Santa Maria because of the many stories I had heard about the lake as a child. I wanted to see for myself one of the many pieces of the past in an attempt to learn more about my ancestry. My hike had already tired me, causing my legs to ache and I thought, “Surely my ancestors were more fit than I for this type of mountain hiking.” I imagined my grandmother’s sister Armida Flor and her husband, Emanuele Bertagnolli, walking this same path 80 years before me. Certainly, they did not complain. They had traveled this path hundreds of times, moving up and back down the mountain with ease. Often, even their small children would accompany them. They had a vision and a reason for being on this path. I, on the other hand, was a visitor to this land and a casual observer. The trees were silent as I walked. They spoke not of times nor of people past. They spoke not at all. The path ahead disappeared into the forest without a word and so on I hiked.

I soon met other hikers descending from the mountain. To be sure of my direction, I asked, “Is this the way to Lago di Santa Maria?” They looked puzzled at my question. Finally, they said, “This is the way to Lago di San Felice, not Lago di Santa Maria.” “Where is Lago di Santa Maria? I asked. They discussed the question amongst themselves and answered that they did not know. Off they went on down the mountain and onto a different path toward the village of San Felice.

Puzzled, I proceeded up the mountain, a warm breeze at me back. The fall forest was a rich green and the sky was clear and blue. The afternoon was moving steadily into evening and the late season’s colors were mirrored to each side of my path. After another half an hour of strenuous hiking, I reached a summit of sorts and paused to catch my breath.

There before me, in the shadows of the forest, was a small lake. I surveyed the water for some while. It looked like all the pictures I had seen of Lago di Santa Maria and that name was printed clearly on my map. But I was new to this land and perhaps I had made an error in hiking. Perhaps I had reached some other lake of another name. Perhaps I was lost!

The lake stretched out to my left and again to my right and had a small island in the middle of the water close to the opposite shore. I remembered Emanuele Bertagnolli and his family had once operated a small place to eat on the banks of the lake I was searching for, and yet I saw no building. I remembered the stories of great parties or feste that were held on the banks before me and yet I heard no sound. The tall trees crowded toward the lake from every direction. The quiet water, which lay before me like a mirror in the forest, echoed no sound, no rhythm of the valley far below. There was nothing but pure beauty, uninterrupted by the world around the lake. But then again, there remained the puzzle. Where was I?

Turning from the question, I decided to embrace the day and enjoy the newfound lake. I put together a fly-fishing rod and began a series of short casts into the still water. The afternoon passed quietly into a maze of lengthening shadows as I fished. The forest whispered the names from the past with each passing breeze. The Bertagnolli family of Tret and the Flor family of Brez were entwined in the history of the lake and like the roots of the lake’s tall trees they were entwined in my past. Yet, I knew so little of the past.

I fished for awhile, but there were no fish for me this day. There have been many days without fish for me. However, the beauty and silence of this place more than pleased me. It was perfect! The scene before me swayed back and forth between the colors of today and the black and white of old photographs I had seen. The sounds of happy family gatherings on sunny afternoons in years gone by played softly as the day slowly ended.

Lago di Tret circa 1936 – The Bertagnolli family boating the lake.

As the last bit of sun was swallowed-up by the dark forest, along the path came the final group of hikers. As they approached, I asked, “Do you know the name of this lake?” “Certainly,” came the eager reply. “This is Lago di Tret!” The puzzle was starting to be solved, or was it? I had come to the lake on the path from Tret and so I supposed the lake could be named for the village. It made perfect sense. Never mind that the map called it Lago di Santa Maria. Lago di Tret would do just fine.

I never did find the building next to the lake. I suspected, however, that the building was still there surrounded by the mysteries of time. Returning to the village of Tret late that evening, I paused at the base of the mountain to speak to a local resident who operated the albergo where I was staying. She asked me where I had been. I told her I had hiked to a lake in the mountains behind the village and that I was told it was called Lago di San Felice, although I knew the lake as Lago di Santa Maria. She smiled and said, “I am sure you were also told the name of the lake is Lago di Tret.” “How did you know?” I asked. Her smile broadened a bit and then she replied with a wink of her eye, “The Lake has many names. Which one you choose depends on where you are coming from and where you are going.”

Every day has the possibility of being great. The trick, it seems, is in recognizing greatness as it unfolds and before it slips away.

Epilogue

Curiosity drew me back to the shores of Lago di Tret two years later. I had been disappointed in not being able to locate the original building that belonged to my distant relatives and I yearned to know more about the history of the lake. Fortunately, the return trip to Tret included a vast reunion with cousins from the Bertagnolli families of Tret. They were eager to share information about their family’s past, including the origin of the lake and the location of the original Bertagnolli owned building. Over healthy helpings of polenta, speck and grappa, I learned about the lake’s past.

Lago di Tret is a man-made lake. The man who made the lake was Emanuele Bertagnolli, the husband of my grandmother’s sister, Armida Flor. The Veier creek had flowed into a shallow basin for centuries before, pausing to form a marshland before proceeding down the mountain to join the Novella stream below Tret. After acquiring the property shortly after the turn of the century, Emanuele Bertagnolli built a dam across the Veier creek in the years between 1920 and 1922. The lake, in its present form, was thus born.

The ruins of the Bertagnolli’s Rifugio Alpino

In 1924, Emanuele and his family constructed the Rifugio Alpino on the shore of the lake near the dam. This structure served much the same purpose as modern rifugios in the Italian Alps today. People walking in the mountains, away from towns and villages, could stop to rest and find something to eat and drink. The rifugio also served as the center for many parties and celebrations over the years. It remained for many years, tended by the Bertagnolli family, until a fire destroyed the building. All that remains is a large pile of stones, mortar and charred timbers. This was the building I had searched for in vain two years earlier.

The Trout That Was Finally Caught

With this new perspective, I again hiked to the lake on this second visit for a closer look at history and another morning of fishing. Sure enough, there right next to the dam were the ruins of the Bertagnolli rifugio. I had passed right by them on my previous trip. I inspected what remained of the building. Moving amidst the stone rubble, I could almost hear the laughter of so many good times spent here in years gone by. I could still feel the pride of the past as it seemed to hang in the still morning air. I walked to the other side of the lake and made a series of casts into the mirror-like water. I finally caught and released one of the lake’s elusive trout. Feeling fulfilled, I returned to the dam and the trail head leading back down the mountain. The morning was quiet with just a hint of fall in the air. Surveying the lake, the old dam and the broken bits of history before me, I turned from the quiet of the lake toward Tret. With a deep sigh I remembered fondly that this day, like the one two years earlier, was a great day!

Photo: Lake Tret in October 2002.

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The Right Cheek

The right cheek… Mine has been tweaked more than just a little.

Through the decades (Ten year intervals for you millennials), my right cheek has been grasped and shaken by numerous people. I am still here to tell the tale. Let me elaborate.

When I was just a kid, my grandmother (nonna) used to grab my cheek and say, “Buon ragazzo – you’re a gooda boy!” That’s what Tyrolean grandmothers did back in the day. It was a term of endearment. It was praise by cheek tweaking. I didn’t really know any better so I just accepted it. I was pleased to be praised, although ragazzo sounded like a spaghetti sauce to me at the time.

My other grandmother (mother’s side) used to do the same thing sans the Tyrolean-Italian accent. She liked me immensely and showed it by grasping my right cheek. My efforts in pleasing her were always rewarded in the same flesh grabbing manner. By the age of eight, I was feeling a little bruised but no worse for the wear. I knew that grandmothers were that way and I was okay with it. No harm, no foul save little finger fulls of flesh.

My parents spared me the rod and the cheek. I don’t recall either grabbing or pulling on my face. They had faith in me and believed rightly that I did not need cheek tweaking. I love them still for this simple act of restraint. They believed that der Geist ist willig, aber das Fleisch ist schwach (the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak). I have always appreciated that. My handsome face still does as well.

As I grew up, the right cheek went intermittently unscathed for many years until I was in college. Then the assault resumed. My German teacher took a special interest in me, probably because I was bilingual to start with. She was a large German frau who probably could have played professional football for the Steelers. Again with the hand! She felt that I worked too hard in my studies. (I did!) “Du solltest heiraten und dich niederlassen.” (You should get married and settle down.) She pinched that right cheek so many times with that same phrase that I finally took her advice in desperation and  went off blindly to ask a young girlfriend to marry me. On the way to her workplace, I was told by a friend that she had died of a drug overdose that same day. I pinched my own right cheek hard and cried into the night. Forty years later I learned that the story was just a ruse by a jealous friend and that my old girlfriend was just fine. I retro-filed that one under “super bummer” and moved on.

I went through a sort of cheek hiatus for many years after college. Only occasionally would a date’s mother or female co-worker grab it for dramatic effect. It usually didn’t work. I had acquired a certain amount of cheek immunity. The right cheek healed from years of abuse and I was for many years feeling cheeky. (Can’t believe I threw that in!) The whole tweaking thing was behind me or so I thought.

Married for the second time nearly four decades ago (millennials note: that’s 40 years), I was cheekless in Seattle for many years. (Again, sorry! It was actually Eugene, Oregon.) Then of course, my lovely wife began to grab my right cheek and say things like, “Oh, you poor thing!” I admit I deserved it as I was whining about some trivial transgression from one of society’s dumb masses. Besides she kind of liked the whole pound of flesh idea. It comes with marriage, right? I have now come full circle in life’s great right cheek firmament. Currently I occasionally pull my own cheek just to see if my old skin will still return to its proper place. (👍 It does!)

Now as I approach super-geezerdom, I wonder if when I am gone someone will lean into my face and grab that same cheek one last time? What will be the words? I hope they are, “Una buona vita, ragazzo!”

Note: The photo is of mini-me circa 1952 and my nonna Anna Maria Flor Rizzi.

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To Obese Or Not To Obese

This concludes a three post series about the American people:

To obese or not to obese – That is America’s question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the butt to suffer
The fries and sides and outrageous hamburgers
Or to take arms against a sea of sodas
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep in cardiac arrest…

Hamlet aside, it really boils down to some pretty basic decisions. Do Americans want to be healthy or the obese, heart attack waiting to happen dolts they often appear to be? Do they want to line-up at fast food portals or use some common sense in their eating habits? Personally, I got out of the fast food cue over five decades ago and I never looked back. But what about my countrymen?

Americans are recognized the world over for being over weight, fat or whatever other euphemism you would like to apply. Basically, we are an obese nation in need of exercise and proper nutrition. We have been hearing this din for decades and yet we don’t seem to listen.

If you wear a medium or large shirt, good luck in finding one at any store. The selection has increasingly been narrowed (pun intended) to XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL and 5XL. These sizes should be simply replaced with way big, super big, humongous, and outrageous. As Mr. T would say, “Pity the poor fool who’s looking for a normal size!” This applies to men and women. It’s sad that most Americans need to cover themselves with the equivalent of two table cloths!

The optimum exercise that most of us receive is that brief pulse we use to tap our smart phones. Things like walking, running and lifting have largely been discarded in favor of sitting, standing and eating. No wonder we look like a nation of Hostess Snoballs! The 44 ounce soft drink has replaced water and has become super portable to boot. Look around in any store, airport, football game or public gathering and you’ll sure to see what I mean. We have two-fister soda guzzlers everywhere! Add the chips, fast food and frozen meals and the reality of the situation becomes as scary a 400 pound Walmart shopper on the prowl at the in-store McDonalds.

We do have a choice in all of this if we would only listen to our medical community or even ourselves for that matter. No one wants to be obese, right? Well, maybe and maybe not. Being obese seems to be becoming an American norm and one that is all too often accepted as inevitable. We now have TV programs featuring and glamorizing the obese. Many people are plain fat and proud of it. We have made obesity on the same par as underprivileged and hundreds of other protected classes of our citizenry.

The next time you find yourself going to the 5XL rack with a three quart Coke and pork rinds in your hands, you may want to ponder the question: To Obese Or Not To Obese.

A little PS for any doubters: I have never been obese but I have been to the funerals of dozens who were.

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Our New America

This is the second post in a three-part series about the American people.

Today I was in a very long line at the supermarket and found myself talking to an older woman next to me whom I’d never met. We were just chit-chatting and somehow the topic moved from the weather to her granddaughter. I was so moved by this woman’s story that I wanted to share it here.

In passing, this woman related to me that her granddaughter was in college in South Carolina. I asked what she was studying and the grandmother replied: “Well, she wanted to be a doctor. She’s a straight “A” student, super motivated and studies hard. The trouble is, she just doesn’t have the money for Medical School and can’t afford a loan for hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

I shrugged in agreement and pressed her about her granddaughter. She had graduated from a local North Carolina high school and had enrolled in the University of South Carolina in pursuit of a medical career. She was a full time student devoted to her studies. But she was struggling emotionally and was definitely in need of financial assistance. That help had been refused by numerous authorities, including the on-campus financial assistance department and various government agencies. The reason? She wasn’t a member of any particular entitled group, she was middle class, not poor enough and was Caucasian. To boot she didn’t have movie star parents to buy her way into a prestigious school.

The conversation then shifted to the needs of our population and who gets the help from our government. I wondered out loud why our country gives away sacks full of money to undeserving illegal aliens, convicted criminals, people who don’t want to work and other deadbeats who will never contribute to our society while at the same time refusing to help someone like this woman’s granddaughter. Have we really gotten to the point where individual initiative and hard work go completely unrewarded? I think so. The very things that made our country great to begin with now count for squat.

I asked the woman what her granddaughter was going to do in light of her dilemma. “Probably try to be a medical technician,” she answered with a sigh of frustration. She continued to explain that her granddaughter was working two jobs and going to school at the same time. She was worried that the load was a bit too heavy for the young girl but finally conceded in southern style, “She’ll manage alright, I reckon.” I could identify with the whole situation as I worked two jobs all the way through college and grad school. I didn’t get any financial help from anyone either but I managed, became successful and had a fulfilling life. But Lord, what a price I paid! I rarely got three hours of sleep at night all the way through college. Would this woman’s granddaughter be able to do the same? The sad look on the woman’s face gave me doubts.

At last our groceries were checked out and I said goodbye and wished the granddaughter luck. As this woman left the store ahead of me lumbering with her heavy bags, I could not help but wonder if our new America has squandered its human resources in an overdone effort to be politically correct. Couldn’t we use another young, dedicated doctor? I think so!

Your thoughts?

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American People

This is the first in a three part post series about the American people.

American people – I honestly can not find better examples of humanity anywhere else in the world and I have traveled most of it.

To begin with, let me differentiate between people and government. America has one of the worst, most corrupt governments in the world with leeches and crooks occupying most all elected offices. But the people of our great nation seem on the whole to avoid the infection by these parasites and remain the best people in the world. Why? Let me explain why with a few examples:

Two years ago, while heading out for some shopping in the pouring rain, I ran across an elderly man (more elderly than me) with a flat tire. I stopped to help and within a minute three other drivers stopped as well. We changed the man’s tire while standing in 10 inches of water, directed him to the nearest gas station and he went on his way happy to have had the kindness and much needed help. While all of this was going on, three other cars stopped and asked if any additional help was needed. That’s American people.

Try the same scenario in Europe. In the same year I had a headlight go out near our home in Italy while we were leaving a parking garage on a small uncrowded street. They are a bitch to replace but I don’t like being one of those one-eyed pain in the butts that comes lurching at you in the night. I decided to immediately change the bulb with a spare I had in the car. It’s a good half hour process with my car and even longer with my poor back. With my hood up (indicating I needed help), I watched no fewer than 50 people drive by without so much as a look in my direction. To boot, I was doing all of this on a street right in front of a car dealership. I never saw anyone come out to help although I could clearly see three or four young guys sitting around shooting the bull. No one ever did stop and offer to help, including numerous youngsters, so I managed the task alone in about 45 minutes and finally headed for home.

About three years ago, my wife and I drove to explore some back roads in South Carolina, looking for two small lakes. As we needed further orientation, I pulled the car off the road to look at a map and discuss where we wanted to go next. Thirty seconds later a farm boy with his mother in his truck pulled in behind me. He jumped out and wanted to know if everything was okay. Did I need any help? Did we have car trouble? Did I need a lift? When I told him we were fine and just reading a map, he offered up several suggestions on how to find the lakes we were looking for and also took the time to suggest a nearby restaurant he was familiar with. He left us with a smile and a genuine “have a nice day.” That’s American people.

Again, I will compare this to the time many years ago when I asked two elderly men in Germany where the town of Aichen was located. I was searching for an unfamiliar hotel in that small town near Munich. Mind you, I speak perfect German in five dialects. They both told me that they had no idea although it later turned-out that the three of us had been standing in the center of that very town together. Aside from being just plain rude and mean spirited, it made me wonder who I could turn to if I actually had a real emergency in Europe.

The examples could go on forever but I’ll close with just one more. Many people say New York City is unfriendly. I beg to differ. If you need any kind of help in this city, someone will be there immediately and … they will probably be able to find someone to speak your language, whatever it might be, and offer a smile with their assistance. I have experienced that many times, especially when I worked in that city decades ago as a playwright. That great melting pot is not the cold, unfriendly place of the world-wide tabloids. Compare that to Rome, Munich or Paris where: (A) You must speak their language and exact local dialect (B) The answer to most questions of help is invariably, “Non lo so” / “Ich weiss es nicht” or simply a long disgusted look followed by, “Nous n’aimons pas les Américains.”

Something to think about the next time you hear the world picking in unison on Americans – the American people.

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Apartment For Sale In The Italian Alps

Just in case any of my readers are looking for a place in Northern Italy (Trento Province. Please contact me if interested.

allenrizzi

After many wonderful years in Italy, we are selling our apartment in the Italian Alps. For those who may have a serious interest, here are the details:

– All wood construction “clima house” consisting of four apartments (built in 2003).
– Our apartment is the upper right side “mansarda” (under the roof with open beam construction).
– Approximately 75 mq (808 square feet), excluding balcony, garage and cantina.
– Two bedrooms
– One bath.
– Kitchen, living room, winter garden and balcony.
– Garage, cantina (cellar), private external parking place and huge garden.

The location is in the village of Tret in the Val di Non of Trento Province, Italy. Shopping is in nearby Fondo (7 km), Merano (34 km) and Bolzano (42 km). Hospitals are located in Cles (20 km), Bolzano and Merano.

The small Lake Tret is situated above the property and can be reached by foot (40…

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Doo-Wop

Wikipedia describes Doo-Wop as follows:

Doo-wop is a genre of rhythm and blues music developed in the 1940s by African-American youth, mainly in the large cities of the upper east coast including New York. It features vocal group harmony that carries an engaging melodic line to a simple beat with little or no instrumentation. Lyrics are simple, usually about love, ornamented with nonsense syllables, and often featuring, in the bridge, a melodramatically heartfelt recitative addressed to the beloved. Gaining popularity in the 1950s, doo-wop enjoyed its peak successes in the early 1960s, but continued to influence performers in other genres.

Here’s an example of Doo-Wop with the aforementioned bridge, Little Darlin’ by the Diamonds (1957)

Although the musical style originated in the late 1940s and was wildly popular in the 1950s, the term “doo-wop” itself did not appear in print until 1961, in The Chicago Defender, just as the style’s vogue was nearing its end. Though the name was attributed to radio disc jockey Gus Gossert, he did not accept credit, stating that “doo-wop” was already in use in California to categorize the music.

“Doo-wop” is itself a nonsense expression. In The Delta Rhythm Boys’ 1945 recording, “Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin”, it is heard in the backing vocal. It is heard later in The Clovers’ 1953 release “Good Lovin'” (Atlantic Records 1000), and in the chorus of Carlyle Dundee & The Dundees’ 1954 song “Never” (Space Records 201). The first record to use “doo-wop” in the refrain was The Turbans’ 1955 hit, “When You Dance” (Herald Records H-458). The Rainbows embellished the phrase as “do wop de wadda” in their 1955 “Mary Lee” (on Red Robin Records; also a Washington, D.C. regional hit on Pilgrim 703); and in their 1956 national hit, “In the Still of the Night,” The Five Satins enlivened the bridge with a plaintive “doo-wop, doo-wah.”

Here’s the Satins version of In The Still of the Night:

In 1961, Barry Mann released a song that played on the Doo-Wop sound’s success. Along with Gerry Goffin, he co-wrote and recorded Who Put The Bomp. It charted at number seven in the United States. The spoken bridge is a reference to the song Little Darlin’ by the Diamonds. Other parts of the song recall the Marcels’ Blue Moon, Chubby Checker’s Pony Time and The Edsels’ Rma-Lama-Ding-Dong. In the end, it is a sort of salute to Doo-Wop. The song fits into the category of “self-referential” songs.

Over the years, Doo-Wop has come simply to mean any song in the Doo-Wop style. It is in the end a truly American sound that can’t be imitated. Its popularity has never really gone away, as attested to by the countless PBS Doo-Wop television specials. Many of the original Doo-Wop groups still tour and perform. Me? Oh yes, I am a verified Doo-Wop fan.

What’s your favorite Doo-Wop song? (One of mine is the obscure Pretty Little Angel Eyes by Curtis Lee ((1961)) backed by the Halos and produced by Phil Spector.)

Another favorite is 1962’s Remember Then by the Earls.

Note: The picture above represents a typical Doo-Wop chord progression in C Major.

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Vienna

I had long wanted to visit Vienna, Austria but not completely for the usual tourist reasons. The year was 2005 and my wife and I were living in Northern Italy. The trip by car wasn’t really that long so we decided to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams. We planned the trip for November 2, ironically the Day of the Dead, and set out for a hotel in Pressbaum, located on the outskirts of Vienna near the Vienna Woods.

Pressbaum

We chose a route that took us from our home near Meran, Italy up the Brenner Pass, into Innsbruck and east to Pressbaum. The trip was delightful with many things to see and do along the way. We poked about a bit in Innsbruck because it is a city that we truly love. Once we got to Pressbaum, we settled in for the evening and planned our days in Vienna. By the way, if you wish to visit Vienna but want to stay out of the bustle of the city, Pressbaum is the perfect choice. Vienna is accessible from Pressbaum by train as well as car in just a few minutes.

Schönbrunn Palace

The top things we wanted to see as tourists were the Schönbrunn Palace, the Prater and of course Mozart’s grave. The palace was spectacular as I expected. But it was freezing cold and the normally beautiful gardens were devoid of life. We soaked up the history inside the palace and thoroughly loved the visit. If you visit Vienna, it is a must see. Strangely, the nearby McDonalds had curious advertisements on the outside of their building written in Japanese. I guess a Big Mac is a big deal for Japanese tourists. It definitely added to the charm as we are both super international.

Wiener Riesenrad

I had heard about the Prater (large public amusement park) from my father when I was a child and was thrilled to see it in person along with taking a ride on the famous Ferris Wheel, the Wiener Riesenrad. On April 7, 1766, Emperor Joseph II declared the Prater to be free for public enjoyment, and allowed the establishment of coffee-houses and cafés. Throughout this time, hunting continued to take place in the Prater, ending only in 1920. The Prater is now full of entertainment including a haunted house and the like. The Riesenrad is the main attraction however. The Ferris Wheel is composed of large cars and was completed in 1897. It is located at the entrance of the Prater in Vienna’s Second District (Leopoldstadt). The view of all of Vienna from atop this wheel is truly amazing. You can see all of Vienna and well beyond. You can even get married in one of the cars if you wish!

Mozart’s Grave

Finding Mozart’s grave proved to be easy. I must admit that I stood there in front of it for a very long time with tears in my eyes trying to picture his life and the music I knew so very well. I was overcome. St. Marx Cemetery is not Vienna’s largest but it is probably the most historic. Mozart’s grave is rather simple and it should be noted that it is actually just a monument; Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave. However, many music loving tourists and Viennese residents alike visit the monument daily. It is a pilgrimage of sorts. I was just another humble pilgrim that day but one who was most humbled to be in its presence. I swear I could actually hear Mozart’s Requiem in the cold marble as I touched it.

Number 9, Glasergasse

Remember that I mentioned that we were visiting Vienna not completely for the usual tourist reasons? Indeed, we had greater plans for exploring the city. My father Gene Rizzi went to music school at the Neues Wiener Konservatorium many decades ago and thus lived in the city’s Ninth District for several years. Although I knew my father lived in Vienna, I had only recently tracked down the exact address. We had to do a little driving, parking and walking to find the house. But at last, there it was: Number 9, Glasergasse in the Ninth District. My father had lived here so many years ago, both as a budding violin student and as Concert Master for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. I drew many a deep breath as I gazed at the building and tried to recall my father’s youth. The building had been owned by the mother of one of his musician friends, Fritz. The only memory of all of this I have is contained in a few old photographs. Here’s one of the violin trio my father played with in the early 1930’s. (L-R Gene Rizzi, Fritz and unknown)

I soaked up the local history, visited the nearby church where my father attended mass and walked many of the streets and alleys that my father surely walked some 75 years before. That was the real reason we had come to Vienna. I even brought some of those old family photos from the 1930’s and asked a couple of older locals what they knew about them. The answers were surprising and informative. I was definitely glad that German is my second language and that I was able to speak the Viennese dialect. I learned a lot.  As I had imagined that my father and his trio often played locally, I also perused several locales that featured such music decades ago. We covered a lot of ground. The whole trip really brought my father’s past as a young man and musician clearly into focus.

Then of course I recalled that Hitler shut down the famous music school my father attended along with most of Vienna’s music venues. The Golden Age of Music had come to an abrupt halt with the anschluss. Fortunately my father had seen Hitler speaking in Vienna shortly before his rise to power and had a premonition of things to come. He later recalled that he became certain just listening to this madman that it was time to leave Vienna. As my wife and I left the Ninth District, I stared at the old cold buildings and wondered what my father might have done if not for that upheaval so many years ago. Would he have stayed in his beloved Vienna? Perhaps, but then again I surely would not have been born.

PS – Ironically, I haven been able to locate only one recording of my father’s music. I found it on YouTube a couple of years ago. It is a 1931 recording of the Vienna Maiden’s Waltz  by Carl Michael Ziehrer. That’s my father on first violin with his Stradivarius. Here’s the recording:

 

Top Photo: My father Gene Rizzi as a young Concert Master in Vienna. Trio by unknown photographer. All other photos copyright 2005 by Allen E. Rizzi and Rachel Rizzi.

Note: My newest book, Neues Wiener Konservatorium – Ein Blick Zuruck Aus Amerika, will be out soon in both English and German editions. Watch for it on Amazon.com.

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Kürbissuppe

I just made this again tonight and thought I would reblog.
Aus Südtirol mit Liebe!

allenrizzi

Since I live in the South Tirol, I thought I would share a little known recipe from my mountainous homeland: Kürbissuppe.

Kürbissuppe is basically pumpkin soup, but with a few important improvements. Many years ago, I had this dish at the Gasthof Zum Moren in Prissian, (South Tirol) Italy. Being very impressed with the taste and quality of the soup, I asked the owner for the recipe. I then took it home, tweaked it just a bit and have enjoyed it ever since on two continents. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients (Zutaten)

One slice of onion
A small bit of lauch
One Pumpkin (or 15 ounce can of pumpkin)
One 15 ounce can of chicken broth
One pint of heavy whipping cream
A splash of white wine
One teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
Two tablespoons of brown sugar
Salt and Pepper

Preparation (Zubereitung)

– First, cut…

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