From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 44
Italian Puppy Love via Vespa
All three of our daughters spent part of their summers in Gioviano since infancy. As each one reached the age of 12 or so, they became “quasi-signorine” (almost young ladies) and thus began to attract the attention of every Italian male they encountered, young and old alike.

Once when Anne was about 14, a man in his forties invited her to spend the weekend with him in seaside Viareggio. As you can imagine, she was mortified. Twenty years later, the same man bought her a cappuccino. Italian men never give up the chase.

As each of our daughters is extremely beautiful by any standard, with natural blond hair and blue eyes, they attract lots of attention which has made me the subject of much banter about how someone as ugly as I could father such beautiful daughters.

I feel like I have been quizzed a million times with, “È sua quella bella ragazza?“ (“Is that beautiful young girl yours?”)

My standard reply, which almost always evokes laughter is, “Non so. Spero di sì. Soltanto la mamma lo sa di sicuro. Bisogna domandare a mia moglie.” (“ I don’t know. I hope so. Only the mother knows for sure. You need to ask my wife.”)

Last night when we returned from shopping in Lucca, I began working on this book in my office in Palazzo Margherita. Anne came in and announced that the young people were partying down by the social hall under the San Rocco church. They were chasing each other, gossiping, kissing, and generally enjoying themselves, which brought back memories of how the boys of Gioviano and neighboring towns would become obsessed with Anna, Giovanna, and Carolina as they reached the enchanting status of being “quasi-signorine.” To drive to the mountains, or to eat for a few hours, the boys would hop on their Vespas and chase the car, driving erratically down the 28 hairpin curves to the bottom of the hill where they would give up the chase. The girls would look stoically straight ahead pretending to not pay any attention to the boys who would then endanger themselves even more by driving adjacent to the car or trying to pass us on a curve in order to obtain at least a furtive glance.

Upon our return, the boys would oftentimes be lurking at the bottom of the hill, sometimes having been joined by boys from other neighboring villages. They would run to their Vespas, start them up and rev the motors to see who could make the most noise and like a swarm of bees chase us up the hill. Sometimes a boy or two would get past our car and take the lead with others taking up the rear.

The Vespa motorcades were not the only methods used to attempt to gain the attention of our very shy children. They would sometimes find bouquets of wildflowers left at the front door of the house along with notes that nearly always read, “You are very beautiful.” Of course this traumatized the girls even more. However, as they slowly but surely became “signorine” instead of just “quasis” they began to take an interest in the flirting which led to some good friendships with the opposite sex.

Most of their suitors and admirers are now happily married and have children of their own--some of whom were no doubt amongst those who were having fun with each other last night. At midnight, the boys hopped on their Vespas, a lucky one with a signorina snuggled up behind him, and off they sped into the night.

Revised March 3, 2008
Copyright 2005-2006 George H. Russell
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