While we vacationed here in Italy, we didn’t want to buy a television, partially because we didn’t want to pay the canone … the annual fee/charge/tax of about 115 euros that everyone who owns a TV must pay. Apparently, not everyone. It seems many people didn’t understand the word must … as of this year, payment is included in everyone’s electric bill. In two installments, just to rub it in. Gotcha. Anyway, we had our 17-inch laptop, and in the evenings, we were content to watch movies via DVD (remember DVDs?).

Once we moved, we wanted a TV. It’s a totally different system than the American one, so our old sets were donated or given away before we packed the container. We would buy flatscreens, an upgrade from our dinosaur cathode ray models. And I suggested that we get two identical sets … so we’d only have to learn one multi-button, multi-shape, multi-color, multi-function remote. I found a great price on a Samsung model online. Of course with free shipping.

We thought we’d be fine with regular, Italian programming, delivered the old-fashioned way over the antenna already on our roof. We were wrong. Listening to Italian news was great … watching dramas and comedies, all good … but we also wanted something familiar.

Something familiar … and sporty.

It was autumn. It was the siren song of futbol americano. David wanted to succumb. The unlimited coverage of all soccer all the time (calcio in Italian), from anywhere and everywhere in Italy … leagues and competitions throughout Europe … national matches and international competitions … AAA, AA … FIFA … liga this and liga that It just never filled the bill.

Like the Monty Python’s routine … spam spam spam spam spam spam beans and spam. Soccer soccer soccer soccer soccer soccer moto and soccer.

David needed the real deal. On any given Sunday. Pigskin. Gridiron. Helmet. Marching into enemy territory with a sustained ground attack …

After … during … before …

We knew a satellite dish was our only option … since our little pocket of paradise was (and still is) without fiber optics or cable or DSL. We went to the mega-appliance stores at the closest big mall where there was a display for the Sky satellite system. David walked up to the young woman at the booth, and asked futbol americano? Yes, she said, if you get this one certain package. There is one certain channel that will broadcast some games … and you’ll get a lots of channels with lots of calcio, too, and probably some rugby, she added.

I love when an Italian tells us rugby is like futbol americano. In a group, one guy turns to his buddy, and tells him the two games are very similar. Either David or I will say, No, they’re not. The guy invariably repeats his statement … and we again say, No. They’re. Not. (It must be me, because that sounds a bit bitchy.) The topic is changed.

We signed the paperwork, and the next week, a technician arrived to install the dish and explain the converter boxes … one regular, one with a DVR.

Sunday arrived and we found the channel. At 2.30 in the morning, we taped the game. We became Monday morning quarterbacks … having cappuccino and watching the one game that the provider thought we’d want to see. Some weeks, the provider also showed a replay later in the morning … without commercials.

The next season, there was a new provider. The schedule showed that there would be two or three games … hallelujah! … but it seemed that there was a rugby championship somewhere. And apparently the programmers thought that since the ball is oval (and like futbol americano … I know, right?), no one would notice, so they showed the entire tournament. The woman announcer had too jovial an Australian accent when she intoned, rugby. (I can’t include David’s response.) It was a bleak September.

Since then, we’ve been getting two or three games live … with the American announcers. But no commentary by the analysts, no pre-game or mid-game or post-game. Sometimes, they show a college game in the afternoon … Mid-Northeastern Delaware at Southwestern Upper Fresno State … chosen for obscurity rather than viewer interest or team ranking.

If for some reason we can’t watch a game immediately because we have to go into town on an errand, the one silver lining is that nobody … literally nobody … discusses the game, asks if we’ve seen the last-minute catch, tells us the score, comments on bad coaching.

There is even comic relief. Whoever is in charge of the broadcast (the director would be my guess) doesn’t speak English, so transitions to the Italian commercial breaks are abrupt … maybe mid-sentence. Segues back into the game are equally awkward. And they can include a long pause with the Fox logo and a horrible, haunting tune, a reject from the breaking news submissions. Horrible and haunting in that it means you are missing part of the game. Horrible and haunting because hearing it brings back memories of the night the entire broadcast was the logo and the tune … no game.

There have been broadcasts where there is no sound at all … total MOS … though usually during timeouts, both team and advertisers, there are Italian announcers explaining. There’s a grey-haired, knowledgeable guy like “Boomer” with a younger partner (picked from a group of three) in the second chair. Sometimes they hold a football or a bobblehead or a helmet. I am amused by the words that are translated into Italian … lanciatore for quarterback (which is also the word for pitcher, more appropriate since that word means thrower) … and those that are not … touchdown.

When the game ends, suddenly you are watching mountain climbing or sailing or calcio … no recap, no transition, no see you next week.

For college games, they save money by not buying the rights to the American announcers and haven’t hired anyone who understands the nuanced differences between collegiate and professional football … so you only hear the sounds of the stadium, quietly.

No … no cheerleaders.

Yes, this channel shows the Superbowl (yeah), but without American commercials (boo hoo).

Italians do enjoy basketball … called basket … and games from the NBA, live and tape-delayed, are shown regularly during the season. I’ll watch most games … but not the Pistons. It’s the only grudge I hold … ever since the finals against Lakers in 1988. (I even blame them for the terrible traffic getting home that evening to watch Game 7.)

We do get to see some baseball … caps and diamonds and fields and going home … including the World Series. But if you didn’t grow up with it, it’s hard to understand, harder to explain. It’s believing in the hanging curveball and the sweet spot … understanding non-linear thinking and non-time kind of time. One day a couple years ago, we turned on a game, and stopped in our tracks … as we heard the voice of our beloved Vin Scully. We just smiled and stared … in case they’d show Vinny in the booth. Alas, no.

Maybe we can import tailgating. Italians would love a reason to grill sausage.


Winter fruit pairs well with walnuts … summer fruit with almonds. Of course, if you prefer hazelnuts or pecans or macadamias, use any of them.

4 oz. butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup yogurt or sour cream
2 cups seasonal fruit, chopped

- Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan. Preheat oven to 350° F (170° C).
- In large bowl, cream butter and sugar, then stir in eggs and vanilla.
- In a small bowl, combine flour, soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Blend in half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture … then add yogurt … stir in the rest of the flour.
- Fold in the fruit.
- Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with topping.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until lightly browned.
- Serve at any temperature. If it’s still warm, it would be great with fior di latte gelato or vanilla ice cream.


1/2 cup chopped walnuts OR almonds
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbl. butter, melted
- Combine all ingredients.



Life … and cooking … in the Tuscan countryside.

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