Maria Giuseppa Robucci, better known as Nonna Peppa in Italy, is currently the oldest living person in Europe. Nonna Peppa has yet another birthday coming up... on March 20th she will turn 116!
This centenarian lives today in Apricena, Puglia with her daughter Filomena and her family. She was born in 1903 in nearby Poggio Imperiale where she married farmer Nicola Nargiso and bore five children, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. She managed a local bar along with her husband for many years, is very religious and claims to have known Saint Padre Pio personally. For the last few years she holds the title of honorary mayor of Poggio Imperiale, making her the oldest mayor in Italy.
Her secret to longevity? Nonna Peppa doesn't drink or smoke.
Today, March 8th, is International Women's Day and in Italy it's the time when mimosas are blossoming with their golden color. All across Italy women are presented lovingly with a bouquet of mimosa flowers to say "Thank you"... thank you for being Mama, that you for being my sister, thank you for being a great daughter, thank you for being a fantastic co-worker, or thank you for being a wonderful wife. March 8th is called La Festa delle Donne in Italy.
While in Italy the day has become almost like Mother's Day here in the States, the observance started in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, and was held in New York City after a sweat shop factory burned to the ground, killing 145 workers--mostly young women who were underpaid and had to work in unsafe conditions. This event and the observance was the de facto birth of the modern Women's Movement. Sadly, in Italy and around the world, women are still struggling to achieve equal pay for equal work, among many other issues.
The tradition of a gift of mimosas dates back to 1946 when the feminists, Rita Montagnana and Teresa Mattei, came up with the idea of women offering the bouquets as a symbol of mutual respect, sisterhood and support. Mimosa was one of the few flowers in bloom on the date. The Mimosa also represents strength and endurance, being a tough plant that can survive adverse conditions in Italy.
Oddly, being originally a Socialist observance, it seems that in Italy, the Festa delle Donne has been commercialized... another day where bouquets of Mimosa tied with yellow ribbons are sold in supermarkets, bars and tobacconists all over Italy. It's become expected that fathers, sons and husbands also give the flowers to the women in their lives. The commercialization of La Festa delle Donne has made it more like Mothers Day and might be losing some of its original meaning based on solidarity of women's issues. Even chocolate companies offer their dolci in yellow packaging. In some parts of Italy the Festa is celebrated on the closest Sunday to March 8th, and special events are held, such as a procession of mimosa decorated gondolas in Venice and a regatta for female rowers. .
The commercialization of the Women's Movement in Italy
From Grand Voyage Italy to all Women... Auguri!
Support each other and keep up the fight for equality!
Watch just about any old movie filmed in Italy and more than likely they'll be flirting... especially the stereotype of an incorrigible flirt coming on to a woman. An old gent pursing his lips to his fingers letting a young girl know how tasty she looks, or a young regazzo following for a few steps on the street accosting a young lady with a flurry of metaphorical compliments, or it could be a supposed innocent young boy blurting out blatantly how great a woman's legs are.
Flirting is part of life in la Bel Paese. In fact, there is a special metaphor for it...
fare la civetta, which literally means "to make like an owl", or simply una civetta (an owl) meaning "flirt". The expression was first penned in 1494 when poet Poliziano used the word civettare to describe how a woman might attract a man, by cooing like an owl to attract her prey, and then silently pouncing on them with their sharp talons as their prey approaches.
In reality, Italian women do flirt more like an owl than men do. They are more subtle and less obvious than the screeching of regazze hawks. A young regazza will start to walk away from her prey, but then turn her head back slightly with a half smile and side glance, and then keep walking away.... Hooked.
Hair dangling over the eyes is another technique. Lowering her head and letting a few wisps of hair hide her admiring glance at a young man, but then flipping them back into place shows a guy she sees something she likes... Hooked.
Subtle and blatant at the same time, una giovane bellezza (a young beauty) may be sitting at a gelateria touching a spoonful of gelato to her lips, glance over at her targeted regazzo and slyly lick her lips, putting her spoon right back to the work of enjoying her confection... Hooked.
Amazingly--but very Italian--there are many distinct variations in the way this word is used:
The context matters, too. For instance, if someone says "Non andrai da nessuna parte con Adelina. È una vera civetta." (You won't get anywhere with Adelina. She's a real tease.") Most men stay clear of a tease once they become away of their game.
Curiously, there is even the giacca civetta (owl jacket). This is the second jacket a man leaves over the back his chair at work so the boss and co-workers think he is somewhere in the building... when in reality he is out of the office wearing his other jacket (metaphorically or otherwise) while fare la civetta.
Even more interesting, I recently discovered the expression Italians use for "bait and switch" when a company advertises one cheap product (the owl cooing) just to trick you into buying their more expensive one (the talons)... Produtto civetta!
Perhaps Italian men have gotten a bad reputation, mostly from stories of them pinching girls behinds or following aggressively down the street. In fact, Italian men are Mama's boys, very romantic and won't marry until they find l'angelo perfetto (the perfect angel), or one as worthy as Mama. Their flirting can also be very direct, but often in poetic praises:
"Hai degli occhi bellissimi." (You have beautiful eyes.)
"Mi piace il modo in cui ridi" (I like the way you laugh).
"Il tuo sorriso è davvero fantastico!" (Your smile is really awesome!)
"Ho visto che mi stavi guardando e ho pensato di venire qui a fare due chiacchiere."
(I saw you were looking at me and I thought I could come over and chat).
"Complimenti alla mamma." (My compliments to your mother).
"Nel cielo manca un angelo?" (Is heaven missing an angel?)
"Ti sei fatta male cadendo dal cielo?" (Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?)
In English these pick-up likes might sound corny... in Italian, just try to resist...
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