3 Generations Make A Memory In Italy

Sometimes, I open my email and find better stories than I can weave. Here’s three generations making a memory  from reader BJ McCafferty.

Hi Andra,

I was in the audience when you spoke at the History on Tap Series in Crandon, WI. After we met, I read all three books and love them.  I especially liked “Not Without My Father“.

You wrote as you signed one of the books, “Make a Memory”.

I told you I was taking my granddaughter to Italy this summer.

We are beginning our journey next week, and Sofie(8) says it is going to be an “Epic” trip!  I believe her! I will record memories, but sometimes I’ll leave my camera behind and enjoy the moments.

May your Days be long and your Memories Bright,
BJ McCafferty

Grandma and granddaughter

Dear BJ:

I’ve thought often about your upcoming trip with Sofie. My grandmother never saw the ocean and only visited three states. Your adventurous spirit is going to inspire and mold your granddaughter. I hope you’ll tell me all about the trip.

If you’re going to Florence, visit Aqua Flor. I love their soaps and scented waters. The place looks like an old lab, and the proprietor is charming.

I’m also glad to hear you enjoyed my books. The fiction is the most fun for me to write, but I understand why NWMF appeals to so many people. I love what it’s done for Dad and me. His 83rd birthday is tomorrow, and we’re going to celebrate with him.

Please give everyone in Crandon my regards. I enjoyed my time with you so much and look forward to returning someday.


granddaughter and grandmother

Hi Andra,

Just a couple of photos of our trip.  It was epic!

I am so glad to have shared it with my granddaughter and my daughter. The first day in Rome we walked over 10 miles…..not quite 15 though. I have been sorting over 3,000 photos since our return.

All my best to you,
BJ McCafferty

Read more stories of people who made a memory.

The view from my room in Milan.

The view from my room in Milan.

I’m visiting friends I met through Rotary Friendship Exchange. One of Rotary’s main goals is to foster cultural understanding. Friendship Exchange allows Rotarians to travel and stay in the homes of Rotarians in other countries. Experiences tend to be local and less tourist-centric. And some exchanges really do yield friendships.

Italian LunchLidia and Alberto are attorneys in Milan. Alberto and MTM share a passion for bicycling. Last fall, MTM introduced Alberto to L’Eroica, a vintage bicycle ride in Tuscany. This year, they’re doing it again. I don’t mind, because we get to eat with Italians. AND NOTHING IS LIKE EATING WITH ITALIANS IN ITALY!!!!

I’m grateful to Rotary for these connections. We fear things we don’t know and deride what we don’t understand. By getting to know people from other cultures, I hope I contribute positive things to the American narrative and banish cliched generalizations. Experiences are more powerful than fear.

milan street market

Shopping in Italy is always an adventure.

My first time, I squeezed into a dressing room and couldn’t close the curtain. The woman opposite was modeling things for her husband, and he decided it would be easier to choose from the seat in her dressing room. I covered the door as best I could and proceeded, thinking men in the dressing room must be how things were done in Italy.

shopping at milan street market

Nothing phases me now, so when Lidia wanted to take me to the Milan Saturday Market, I said, “Bring it! I’m a pro.” How stupid I am!!! I found a linen dress I liked, and Lidia wanted me to try it on. I resisted, because 1. It’s a gabillion degrees here, and I’m always soaked with sweat; and 2. The “dressing room” in a street market is an improvised canvas shroud on the sidewalk. I couldn’t imagine disrobing in that thing!! But Lidia shoved me inside, shut the curtain, and went off to haggle price, convinced it was already perfect. She was right.

dress from Milan street market

Milan architecture is beautiful.

I lied today. I pretended to be a cardiologist to get into this building. Fiera Milano Congressi is the largest convention center in Europe. So I crept in with a group of doctors, stole away on my own, and snapped photos of architect Mario Bellini’s amoeba-like place. I’ve been married to an architect too long!!

Cimitero Monumentale is one of two mammoth cemeteries in Milan.

Cimitero Monumentale is one of two mammoth cemeteries in Milan.

Today, I visited Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale to listen to the stillness. Because I write afterlife stories, am I obsessed with death? I ambled along shaded avenues, squeezed between exotic mausoleums, and rested in a pyramid’s shade. And in the stifling heat, I heard a quiver or two. No idea who they will be. 

Maybe I’ll find out during my writer’s residency in Trelex. I’ll be paying attention!

(If you want to see more pics of the beautiful architecture follow me on Instagram.)