Tag Archives: Madeline Vitella

The Granny Groupies Face Off ~ Madeline Vitella

Oh, those Granny Groupies are at it again! If you really want to get the Guys attention follow them on Facebook- (“The Granny Groupies”- Our Custom Trip of a Lifetime). They seem to know how to get it done.  So cute.  Thanks Maddie!
~Marie

Nashville:
Deborah Georgini Beaupre and Madeline Vitella (2 of the infamous “Granny Groupies”) flew into Nashville on February 29 for the Il Volo Concert on March 1 – what other reason would they have to go there???
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After they checked into the hotel they decided to get a light bite for lunch since they were meeting a dozen or more Il Volovers for dinner that night. They went to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and sat toward the  back of the restaurant. Deborah was facing the door and noticed a man who looked like Sal Carozza, the drummer, but by the time we agreed it was him, he was out the door as quickly as he came in (maybe he saw us and decided to run away! LOL!). We walked the streets looking for signs of Il Volo; after all, if one of the band members was strolling along Broadway on such a beautiful Spring-like day, could others be far behind? We came up empty!
divider music note very smallThe next day was an exciting day for us and all the other Il Volovers roaming Nashville! It was concert day and we had a pre-concert dinner planned by one of the native Nashvillians. We decided to take a tour of the Ryman Auditorium that afternoon, not only because it was a very historic building, but we had an ulterior motive as well (the buses were parked outside). The self-guided tour was great and we were able to roam about as we wished, even in the auditorium proper where the stage was being set up. Since we were there we decided to see where our seats were located, and they could not have been better if we hand picked them ourselves! We sat for quite a while and watched the workers set up the stage, lighting, and sound equipment but there was no sound check yet! We decided to go back to the hotel for a drink (it was a nasty rainy, windy day) and relax a while then get ready for dinner and the concert. As we were leaving the Auditorium, we engaged in a conversation with a lovely couple who just purchased tickets for the tour. We asked them if they knew of Il Volo and of course, they did not. Well Deborah and I went on and on and on about them and gave them a short (for me, anyway) synopsis of the Granny Groupies and our travels, etc., and explained how much we loved the boys and what great artists they were. They were finally able to escape us and get on with their tour!divider music note very smallShow Time! 
We walk to the Ryman from the restaurant to find a very long line at the entrance. While in line we met so many Facebook Il Volover friends and enjoyed chatting with them.  Finally the doors open and we were allowed entrance to the auditorium. People were anxiously looking for their seats and there was constant chatter in the room. I looked around and saw many friends who I hadn’t seen earlier, and low and behold, who is sitting right there in the second row but the couple we talked to that afternoon. They said they couldn’t miss seeing Il Volo after all of our enthusiasm earlier in the day. In fact, they told the person sitting next to them (a fb friend) that there were two groupies they met outside the auditorium earlier in the day and they just had to see what Il Volo was all about. The fb friend didn’t realize it was Madeline and Deborah that they were talking about!
divider music note very smallLet the concert begin:
The stage is dark and people are talking amongst themselves while waiting for the concert to begin. Along the sidelines of the stage you can see Piero’s father peeking out, making sure everything is ready for them.
divider music note very smallThe stage lights up and the excitement mounts.
First the orchestra members come onto the stage with a round of applause; then comes the band – Giampiero, Giovanni, Patrizio, and Salvatore – and a huge round of applause for them. Finally, Maestro Diego Basso enters the stage and the crowd went wild! That could only mean one thing… the concert will now start. The stage went black, the orchestra and band were ready! We were sitting so close we could hear Giampiero whisper into the mic and assumed he was giving the go-ahead. All of a sudden the Maestro started moving his baton and WOW! No matter how many times you hear the overture, it’s like you never heard it before and it just knocks your socks off!
divider music note very smallNeed I tell anyone what happens next? Probably not, but I will anyway. As soon as the overture ends you hear the velvet voice of Gianluca singing the beginning of Volare, and then suddenly he appears on the stage; next you hear Piero starting to sing his part as he appears on stage and finally, Ignazio appears while singing his part, and then all 3 of them are out on the stage in full view of the entire audience. I left out the part that when each of the guys appear on the stage the crowd goes into an uproar for them… the applause, the screaming, etc. They finish singing Volare to a thunder of applause and go into Il Mondo. When they finish each song it’s always a thunderous applause and screaming and you think the roof is going to come down.
divider music note very smallAfter Il Mondo, the boys came to the front of the stage and welcomed everyone and thanked us for coming. If you know anything about the Ryman Auditorium, you know it was once a church, and the seats are in half moons or semi-circles and are wooden benches with backs. When Piero came to welcome us he said that it had been a long time since any of them had sung in a church! The crowd got a kick out that; he had us all laughing.
divider music note very smallThe boys each did their first solos and were applauded and warmed with standing ovations each. They are truly incredible singers! Throughout the concert they were kibbitzing with each other and with the audience. One young girl in the audience, about half way back, was screaming so much that Gianluca motioned for her to come to the foot of the stage, which she did, but not before she went back for her cell phone, screaming all the way. The boys were asking her questions and wanted to know why she was screaming and she told them she loved them. Gianluca gave her a kiss on the cheek and I thought the poor girl was going to faint away! She was trembling! Either Gianluca or Piero asked her what her favorite song was and she went numb. He asked again and she said Per Te Ci Saro!
divider music note very smallI’m still on a high so I don’t remember what happened when, but I do know that their “Godfather” skit was more hysterical than ever! Ignazio was cracking up so much that Piero and Gianluca couldn’t keep a straight face. And Piero was bent over with laughter, as was Ignazio! Ignazio was adlibbing quite a bit, and he was interacting more and more with Gianluca this time! I, for one, was laughing so hard I was crying!
Before I go into what happens next, I want to say that every song the boys sang, either solo, duet, or all together, was more beautiful than ever. Their voices just filled the Auditorium like you can’t imagine. The richness in their voices always seems to amaze me, even though I listen to them every single day without fail.
divider music note very smallSo now for song number 9 – Piove.
Deborah Georgini Beaupre had an idea when the group going to the Nashville concert was trying to figure out what to do for the guys that would be special. Deborah thought about putting their baby pictures on sticks, so she proceeded to dabble with the idea. Another Facebook friend said that she would make a few extra to pass around. Another suggested and brought mini Italian flags.
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During the creative process, Deborah thought it would be good to have them printed on glossy paper, and when she got them from the place she had them printed, she decided to trim away all the extra paper around their faces. She also decided it would be good to have some signs made saying Ciao Ciao BambinO, instead of BambinA. These were done in variations of colors and with pictures of the guys when they were young, and another one with pictures from when they first started singing together up to the present.
divider music note very smallPiero started singing Piove, then Gianluca and Ignazio started singing their part. All of a sudden there was a sea of baby pictures of the boys being waved on sticks. The guys didn’t know what to make of it and broke out into broad grins and looks of amazement. They looked at each other as if to say “what’s going on? Did you know about this and not tell me?” Their reaction was just PRICELESS! PRICELESS! PRICELESS! After a few seconds Piero pointed to Deborah to bring him his picture and he took it from her, then Gianluca pointed to Madeline to bring his and Ignazio’s. They took them and put them up to their faces while continuing to sing, not missing a beat! We’ve all seen them surprise the audience by going out amongst them to sing, or bringing a young person on stage, etc. Well, this time the surprise was for them! It was really AMAZING to have seen this happen in person and even better to have been a part of it!
The concert continued and before we knew it, the boys were singing “O Sole Mio” and we knew it would be over soon. They say goodnight and leave the stage to thunderous clapping and shouting… Il Vo Lo, Il Vo Lo! Il Vo Lo! FINALLY, they come back out and sing “Surrender” and then the finale… “Grande Amore”! You cannot imagine the noise in that room when the boys left the stage. O.M.G.!!!
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THE MEET & GREET:
When the concert ended people started heading for the doors. The ushers told those of us with VIP badges to go to the rear of the auditorium. Once we were all gathered in one place they told us to go up to the second level and be seated in a certain section.
The person running the M&G told us to keep the M&G moving and explained that he would take 3 photos of everyone in case some of them didn’t come out well. (I guess he didn’t look at my pictures, or else he was getting even with me for spending too much time with the guys!!!). He also told us that the pictures would be available on the web site in a day or two.
divider music note very smallFrom where we were all sitting waiting our turn, you could clearly see the boys if you looked up towards the top of the seating section, where the M&G was being held. There was no room; it was being held in the foyer of the second floor seating area.
While we were waiting our turn, we could see Ignazio and witness his antics during the meet and greet! They were calling 2 rows at a time so we had somewhat of a wait. When they called our row, we started up the few steps to the M&G and got in line. Since I was in front of Deborah I went first. Before I even approached the boys, the first thing I did was ask them if I could take them home with me… I would be their Nonna!
divider music note very smallAs I approached these beautiful specimens of human beings, I went up to Ignazio and gave him a big hug, but before I could let go of him I was surrounded by Gianluca and Piero. They formed a circle around me and were hugging me, and we almost all fell over! Talk about being swept off your feet!!! I only wish it could have lasted my lifetime!!!
divider music note very smallNow I’m talking to the boys about The Granny Groupies’ visit to their home towns and they were very aware that we had been there… of course Gianluca had first hand knowledge! And I realized then that Gianluca just loves to sign things… I had the cover from the Grande Amore Sanremo CD with me and Gianluca took it from me to sign, only to realize that he had already signed it when he met us in Roseto! He turned it over to Piero and Ignazio to sign.
divider music note very smallBy now the photographer was after me to turn around and have my picture taken, and according to Deborah, he tapped me on the shoulder more than once to turn around, but I swear I don’t remember! So you’ve all seen how my pictured turned out but I don’t care, because I had those few minutes of the boys all to myself, and while I don’t look so great, I am surrounded by beauty in that photo!
divider music note very smallSo now it’s Deborah’s turn. The boys were just chatting away with her and then they saw the baby head sticks in her bag and Piero asked if he could keep his, and Gianluca and Ignazio also wanted theirs. If you’ve seen Deborah’s M&G picture, you can see that they all have their individual baby pics on sticks. It wasn’t long after the M&G that Piero posted a picture of himself holding the baby pic stick saying “the face of a 4 year old on a 22 year old body.” That picture is all over the internet! If you look at the pictures from OMG VIP, you will see that Ignazio has his baby pic stick in his pocket in all the pictures that follow Deborah’s! Kudos to Deborah!
divider music note very smallI stepped out into the hall to wait for Deborah so we can leave for the hotel and who is standing right there but Caterina and Eleonora! They are two very sweet ladies. I asked if I could get a picture with them and they were eager to do so, but Caterina said she doesn’t like her pictures posted so I promised not to put it on fb. Eleonora took the selfie of us and it turned out great – did Gianluca give her lessons? Then I saw Gaetano and asked him for a selfie also and handed him my phone! That picture came out great too! Deborah was also able to get pictures with the parents but I think she took the selfies, not the parents because Deborah is good at that too!
divider music note very smallWe lingered at the venue chatting with other Il Volovers who had just finished their M&G and when we were on our way to the hotel on foot, the buses were waiting by the side entrance/exit, and who walks out as we were passing by but Piero and Ignazio! It was so cold and windy that they had scarves over their throats and faces, but they waived and said Ciao! to us, then they were on their way!
divider music note very smallThe concert and Meet & Greet may be over, but the thrill is still with us. And we relive it every day in our minds and hearts, and on the internet.
divider music note very smallThanks to everyone who posted anything and everything on the internet from the Nashville concert at the Ryman Auditorium.divider music note very smallCiao!!
Maddie

 

Madeline Vitella in D.C. & Maria Leps in Easton, PA.

Madeline:

THE SHOW OF SHOWS! Tonight’s concert at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was another sold out event! Il Volo put on another fabulous show for us and the crowd went wild with standing ovation after standing ovation. The solos were nothing but perfect and the duets were amazing. The crowd enjoyed the banter among the boys. The Maestro was enjoying the concert as much as the fans did. Here are a couple of pictures you might enjoy!

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~Madeline

 

♦♦♦♦♦♦

Maria:

Easton State Theatre, 2/22/16
IL Volo Concert shared with my son Steven Leps

Maria 1A great evening shared with my son Steven, 40, who is a graduate musician with a major in classical guitar, and has had several small bands through college and even recorded 4 CDs. This is just the background so you will know how wonderful it was seeing IL Volo again through his eyes. Of course he has heard me go on and on about them for the past year and a half and lived through my tales of my trip to Italy with the Granny Groupies (Madeline Vitella, Joan Brenin and Deborah Georgini Beaupre.

We had seats 15 and 14 first row in the stage ‘pit’. We were so close our knees touched the stage! As we sat there and the excitement mounted he explained all that the orchestra and IL Volo’s personal band was doing to prepare and how all the technical equipment was set up. Gianpiero Grani waved to me and Giovanni Granaro, Lead Guitar, also waved to me and pointed to Steven saying hello to him. I had told him at the Kennedy M&G that I would be bringing my son to Easton and he remembered!

Then I received a tap on the shoulder from a lady who asked me if I was Maria Leps who had written for The Flight Crew! She reads The Flight Crew all the time and loves it and that morning had read my article that Marie Crider had posted regarding the Borgata concert. She said she loved reading it and knew all about the Granny Groupies and would I write more. My son said ‘Mom you are famous’. It made me feel so special.

Then the concert started with their famous intro by the orchestra and band. Throughout the show Steven said many times ‘Mom, they are fantastic, they have such powerful voices’. He loved their music and songs. He explained the lung power they must have for these high notes and hold them so long and the fact that they have perfect pitch. We, like the entire audience gave them tremendous applause and innumerable standing ovations. As a musician himself, he loved being close enough to see everything they were doing. It was so special sharing this with my son and the fact that Gianluca, Piero and Ignazio recognized me and gave me a smile and wave as they looked right at me while they passed by on stage.

So now, for sure, IL Volo have another ‘younger’ fan to their credit, my son Steven.

~Maria

 

 

A Trip of a Lifetime ~ Part VI ~ Maria, Madeline, Joan and Deborah

The Final Chapter or “Oh, go home already!  Haven’t you had enough magic happen?” ~Marie

May 22: Excelsior Palace Hotel, Taormina  

Before we went to Taormina we took Maria to her brother Gaetano’s house in Catania, where she was to stay another 2 weeks! Her brother was very happy to see Maria after all these years! He invited us into his beautiful home where we met his wife and toured their apartment which was just lovely and filled with all kinds of beautiful decorative items.

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Maria’s sister-in-law, Cettina, invited us into her kitchen and fed us in the true Italian custom, course after course! After about 2 or more hours we said goodbye to Maria and left her with her brother and sister-in-law.

From there, the remaining trio and our guide went to Mt. Etna, 6,000 feet up the mountain; the other 4,000 feet could only be traveled by cable car, and they were not running that day because of the wind. There was lots of lava rock on the hillside which depleted any vegetation where it formed. We walked part way up to one of the craters and Ciro & Deborah went up further. The wind was so strong Deborah felt she would be blown off the mountain!! The view from Etna is breathtaking!

We finally arrived at our hotel in Taormina late afternoon. We did the necessary check-in and put our luggage in our rooms. Once checked in, we then headed out on foot to the beautiful city of Taormina.

Taormina is a very touristy town; in fact, it was the first tourist city in Sicily. A German writer went there to write and that attracted other Germans to vacation there and take photographs which led to businesses opening up in the city. The first establishment was a German Bar.

May 23:

We went to the Teatro Grecco, the theater where Il Volo performed their very first concert in Italy, July 20, 2014, and because it sold out so quickly, they added the next day, July 21, to the schedule. We sat on the concrete seats that surround the theater and watched workmen prepare the stage for upcoming events (an opera was going to be performed there soon).

After touring we went to town again, which was right outside of our hotel. We went through the three arches which separate one part of Taormina from another part – the old and the new. We went into shops and just walked the beautiful street. At the square we took pictures of the seascape and noticed small padlocks along the railing. Ciro explained that it was a sign of true love. Many years ago a young couple vowed their lifelong love for each other by putting the lock on the railing and tossing the key into the sea below. Ever since, many couples perform the same ritual along that railing.

Ciro told us we would stop somewhere special to have the best granite ever!! When we arrived there, Deborah said “Look where we are!! BamBar!! Ciro said, “you know this place?” and we said “of course, this was on our list of places to see, and Il Volo was here last year!!” We sat outside and Saretto (Saro) Bambara, the owner of BamBar, came to our table and talked to us for quite a while about the boys. We enjoyed every bit of the granite, and every minute of our conversation with Saro. Saro is very close to the boys and he took a selfie with all of us and sent it to Gianluca!

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SARO

The inside of BamBar is filled with pictures of famous people who have been there… Il Volo, Michael Douglas & Antonio Banderas, Rosario Fiorello, etc.

We went back to the hotel and showered and dressed in our Il Volo shirts, then we went to Castelmole, an artists town way up in the mountains. We stopped at Turrisi Bar, which is famous for its penises! Yes, you read right – penises!! We had a drink there – Limoncello – as we admired all the, let’s say, figurines and artifacts!! It overlooks the sea and of course there are beautiful views. This bar is 4 stories high and we stayed on the second story and took pictures of the beautiful view while enjoying our drinks.

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When we finished our sightseeing of the outskirts of Taormina, we went back to the town center for dinner. Ciro dropped us off at the edge of the other side of town and told us where he would meet us for dinner, but we couldn’t find the restaurant (thanks to the Limoncello!!) and Ciro was already there, curious as to our whereabouts (and even a little worried we think), when we finally found it. There are so many little alleyways (for lack of a better word) along the main street with so many restaurants that we couldn’t find the one we were looking for.

When we finally sat down at our table, all 3 of us in our IL Volo 2014 tour shirts, people throughout the restaurant noticed us. Three young girls at the table next to us started a conversation about our shirts and Il Volo and, of course, it went on the entire evening.

The best part of the night (for us Sicilians) was when the street singers appeared. We were so elated to have heard them coming our way, and when they got to the top of the street where we were seated, they saw our IL Volo shirts and came to our table.

THEY WERE THE SAME MUSICIANS/SINGERS THAT APPEARED WITH IL VOLO AT THEIR FIRST CONCERT IN TAORMINA IN 2014!!! This group serenaded us for quite a while, singing one of Ignazio’s songs, Quando L’Amore Diventa Poesia, and a few others!

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After a superb evening, we went back to the hotel to watch the Eurovision contest. On our walk back, people on the street kept pointing at us and saying “IL VOLO.”

Because the lounge in our hotel had a large screen TV, we sat there to watch the contest instead of going to one of our rooms to watch it. Even though our sweet, talented young men didn’t win first place (everyone knows it was fixed) they are in first place in our hearts!!!

When the show was over, around midnight, Deborah, Joan, and Madeline hashed over the contest and finally went to our rooms.

May 24:

This was a bittersweet day because we had to leave Sicily to go back to Rome for our last night; however we still had one more stop to make!

Hotel Monte Tauro – where the boys stayed last year for the Taormina concerts. It is a 5 star hotel with a phenomenal view of the sea! The hotel clerk allowed us to take pictures in the lobby and she even took photos of us sitting on the couches where the boys sat last year! This hotel is truly befitting our exquisite, classy young men!

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Against our will, we drove to the Catania Airport for our flight to Rome. After going through security, Joan and Madeline headed up the escalator for the terminal. They couldn’t figure out where Deborah got to, when suddenly they saw commotion below them in the glass elevator, only to see that Deborah was stuck in the elevator!!… she couldn’t get the UP button to move and the door wouldn’t open for her to get out! It took 2 employees about 5 minutes to extricate her! While we felt bad for Deborah, we couldn’t help but laugh!

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Once we landed in Rome we took a shuttle to the Marriott Park Hotel, which was beautifully appointed; everything there was elegant. Because Deborah is a Marriott Gold Elite member, the three of us were able to sit in the lounge and have drinks and food on the house, thus eliminating the need for dinner. (With Deborah’s VIP status, Joan and Madeline were able to enjoy other upgrades as well). Deborah, Joan, and Madeline sat around in the lounge eating, drinking, facebooking, and talking about the wonderful experiences we had on this trip.

May 25: The Party’s Over

After a wonderful complementary full breakfast, Madeline and Joan bid goodbye to Deborah to go to the airport for the flight back to Philadelphia. Deborah was taking a later flight back to Pisa to catch her flight to Elba d’Isola where she was meeting one of her sons, his wife and her 4 grandchildren for yet another beautiful vacation.

This was truly the trip of a lifetime, and as our guide, Ciro, titled it – “The Four Beautiful American Ladies for Il Volo 2015 Tour.”

We hope you enjoyed reading about our visit to Italy. For more information or additional photos please send a private FB message to Madeline, Deborah, Maria or Joan. Grazie!

⇔⇔⇔

Your trip was of what dreams are made.  Thank You Maddie, Deborah, Joanie and Maria for allowing us to enjoy your fabulous adventure as you lived it!  Like Gale Wall said yesterday, “.. You made the land and it’s people come to life for us..” ~Marie

A Trip of a Lifetime ~ Part V ~ Maria, Madeline, Joan and Deborah

In part IV we left them listening to Il Volo while riding through the picturesque Sicilian countryside.  Don’t dislike them for it.  At least not yet. ~Marie

May 18: Naro

Today we went to Naro to meet Piero’s mother, Eleonora Ognibene.

As we were getting out of the car in the square, two young girls were walking by with huge posters of IL Volo and the Eurovision contest! We stopped and spoke with them about our love for Il Volo; they were kind enough to give each one of us a poster. As it turned out, they were the girls who run the Naro IL Volo fan club!

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For the rest of the day they were our companions, Wendalina Licata and Alessia Bruccoleri. They came to meet Piero’s mother with us, as they know her very well. They joined us in having our pictures taken with Mrs. Ognibene and with the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Naro. Piero’s mother posed for individual pictures with us, and then she took a video of us and sent it to Piero! Photos that we see on facebook do not do Eleonora justice! She is absolutely beautiful; stunning would be a better word.

Mrs. Ognibene and the Vice Mayor of Naro

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“When we left Mrs. Ognibene we went to Castello di Chiaramonte in Naro that was opened that day just for us, so we had the entire castle to ourselves! Someone (perhaps Piero’s mother or the Vice Mayor), had a local guide take us to some points of interest.  Below is a photo outside of the Castello di Chiaramonte with our beautiful guide in Naro, Francesca Maria Dainotto, with the lovely ladies of the Il Volo Naro Fan Club, Alessia Bruccoleri and Wendalina Licata.

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Francesca was called on at the last minute to take us on a tour of Naro and she did an excellent job! The Castle was built in the 12th Century and is 2000 ft above sea level. A princess had lived there; some of the clothing of that era was preserved and on display – beautiful dresses and hats, plus some men’s clothing. We toured the Castle for at least an hour and took some great pictures both inside and out. At one time in history, the castle held prisoners who carved their names on the walls; those names remain to this day.

When we left the Castle we went to Tenuta Vitanza, the Agriturismo owned by Piero’s Zio Gino. He and his beautiful niece, Anna, showed us around and we were just amazed. The house was made of stone and at least 700 years old. There were lemon and orange trees, and we were given fruits right off the trees; we saw animals – a kangaroo, a zebra, pheasants, chickens, rabbits, dogs, horses and beautiful peacocks strutting around with their feathers flared out. There are acres and acres and acres of vineyards and olive groves on the property. We will stay here on our next trip!

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Anna and Zio Gina

A reporter, Paolo Picone, joined us at Tenuta Vitanza and interviewed us; a few days later there was an article in the Naro newspaper about us and our trip to see the places where the boys were raised!

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May 19: Best Western Dioscuri Bay Palace Hotel, San Leone

We moved out of Hotel Amici after 2 nights and stayed in San Leone (near Agrigento), another privately owned Best Western. This hotel was beautiful and near the ocean; it also had a pool.

After switching hotels we went to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. It took more than an hour to go through the ruins. We all had our photos taken just like the one Piero posted on facebook some time ago. We did a lot of walking around the grounds and we all took off in different directions for a bit to take pictures.

From Agrigento we went to the town of Madeline’s ancestors, Casteltermini, high up in the mountains. When we approached the town she started to get choked up and it got the best of her. She could not control her emotions because her mother, who was born in the US, always wanted to visit there but passed away before she had the opportunity. The town was preparing for the Feast of The Holy Cross, which is always held the last Sunday in May. They were putting up arches with lights that spread from one side of the street to the other. The festivities start on Friday and end with a procession on Sunday. Madeline was able to go into the main church, although there was a ceremony of some sort going on. She would have liked to light a candle for her mother… next time, to be sure!

We had a nice lunch in Casteltermini at Ristorante i di Mike.

Having had a late lunch, we passed on dinner and opted to go out for gelato. When we got back to the hotel we went to the lounge for a drink and to check out FB posts. Suddenly, people who were all dressed to the nines, including some children, started coming in and sat around the lounge for a while. There was a band playing on the upper level of the hotel and we thought it may have been a club of some sort but… not for little kids! Finally we realized it was a wedding reception that was going to be held in the restaurant on the upper level, and we had a clear view of some of the tables through the glass walls. Once the guests were seated at their tables, the bride and groom came through the lounge and up the steps to the reception. This was all taking place at 22:00, and on a Tuesday night! It was the first of three weddings that we saw in Sicily.

About an hour later we headed to our rooms and sat out on our own big patios and enjoyed the evening air and the beautiful scenery, while finishing our coffee liqueur.

May 20: Mediterranean Palace, Ragusa

We left Agrigento and drove to Ragusa. There was beautiful scenery all the way, with acres and acres of strawberry fields (for which Ragusa is noted), olive groves, and vineyards. There was a situation on the way to Ragusa that forced us to detour and as a result we traveled through the town of Vittoria. There we stopped at a deli for lunch (the first deli we had seen in all of Italy), where they had all the Italian meats, cheeses, and olives, among other delicious looking items too numerous to mention. We all got sandwiches or platters of ham, prosciutto, provolone, olives, etc. Joan bought a bag of tomato flavored potato chips; they were delicious!

When we arrived in Ragusa, Ciro explained that there were two parts to the city, Ibla, the old and baroque part of Ragusa, and the new, lower part. Ragusa is a UNESCO city. There is so much to see here that we didn’t have time to take it all in.

From Ragusa we went to Modica, the Chocolate Capital of the World. The shops all had chocolate tastings – so many kinds of chocolate! – and some also had wine tastings, which we thoroughly enjoyed. There are quaint stone walls and homes built in Modica and surrounding areas that were erected with no cement to hold them together; they were just layered like a jigsaw puzzle. We had a fabulous dinner in Modica, including tripe, which was the first time we had seen it on a menu anywhere in our travels and Madeline, having eaten it throughout her life, was elated to have found it in this restaurant.

May 21:

At 10:00am we were on our way to Noto and Siracusa. There was fragrant oleander growing wild along all the roads. Again, the scenery in Sicily is outrageously beautiful!

In Noto we walked the main road which is closed to vehicular traffic. It was a beautiful tile-lined street, and once we went through the arch we were in the shopping and dining areas. The main church in Noto was beautiful baroque style. Ciro explained that the dome was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1990s but was restored to its original state on the outside; unfortunately the inside frescos were not able to be duplicated.

Siracusa was the next town we visited. The city is also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

We toured the city and had lunch at a restaurant by the sea. It was a perfect day for that kind of venue.

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Tomorrow meet Maria’s brother who lives in Taormina!  Finally even these fortunate ladies have to return to the U.S.A. ~Marie

A Trip of a Lifetime ~ Part IV ~ Maria, Madeline, Joan and Deborah

I want to meet Buddy.  I want to cuddle Buddy.  I want to live where Buddy lives.  I want to sleep where…  Oh… the Italy Trip.  Here you go… ~Marie

That evening we went to Pizzeria dei Desideri where we met Nina Boschetto and Buddy.

Ignazio’s friend, Dario Piccolo, met us there as well. When we walked in, Nina asked us if we were the ladies from America! She came from behind the counter and gave us all hugs and kisses. Nina is a lot like Ignazio – very bubbly and loving! We talked for a while, then we all ordered individual pizzas or calzones, beers and sodas. Madeline’s pizza was called “Ignazio” (of course… what else would she order!) and all the other pizzas had names as well. We took pictures with Nina and when Madeline asked Nina to tell Ignazio we were sorry we missed him, she picked up her phone and did a video of us and immediately sent it to Ignazio! We were just overwhelmed with joy!  (aaakkk ~Marie)

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There is a wall in the restaurant with postcards from all over the world where the boys had travelled (see photo below). There was also a picture with all of the boys on one half and just Ignazio on the other half; riveting! Many other Il Volo Pictures were posted too.

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May 16:

This morning we went to a local park to a meeting of the Vespa Club of Marsala (we had been invited). Ignazio is an honorary member of the club since he refurbished a Vespa for his own use. The club members greeted us with open arms and allowed us to take pictures of them and their machines, which they allowed us to sit on as well. We were able to take a picture of Dario standing on the steps of the same cinema where he did a video to Ignazio on the L’Arena show (Massimo Gilletti). The cinema is across the street from the park where the meeting was held!

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After the Vespa meeting we headed for Trapani and lunch at Cantina Siciliana. The chef and owner, Pino Maggiori, who is very famous throughout Italy, prepared dishes for us (no menu) and gave us a tour of his wine cellar and the Sicilian puppets that are part of the Sicilian culture. We toured some of Trapani on foot and by car for a while. It was a very enjoyable afternoon (as were all our days of this magical vacation!)

On the way back to Marsala we stopped in Dattilo for a connolo tasting at a place where they make the best cannoli in the world! These cannolis are shipped all over the world and now we know why!

Late that afternoon we headed to Agrigento and the Hotel Amici.

So let’s talk about Hotel Amici!! Now this was one of our longer stays of 3 nights. 

This hotel did not meet up to our expectations.  We all looked at each other and said “I don’t think so”!!  At least it was clean, so we ended up staying 2 of the 3 nights and were able to move to a very nice hotel on the 3rd night (thanks to Ciro), which was much better!!  So 1 out of 8 hotels is not bad odds! Ironically enough, 3 out of 4 of us had the best night’s sleep at Amici!

May 17

Ciro picked us up at our hotel bright and early and we took off for parts unknown (to us). Ciro has a Bose amplifier in his vehicle and we listened to the beautiful music of Il Volo as we rode throughout Sicily every day!

We drove through some beautiful countryside; again, lots of olive groves and vineyards no matter where you looked! We saw some vineyards that were covered with white plastic, making the countryside look like it had snowed in that area, but Ciro explained that the covered vineyards are for table grapes, while the uncovered ones are for wine.

We went to the quaint little town of Sciacca (pronounced Shakka), famous for its ceramics and thermal spring water. We stopped at a shop where the owner was actually hand painting a ceramic piece and we talked with him for a while and bought some of his smaller pieces. Too bad our suitcases had a weight limit or we would have bought large platters or bowls – they were all so beautiful!

Naturally we stopped for a late lunch and ate at a Ristorante that was right on the sea, where we watched boats sailing around, and just enjoyed the beauty of it all.

When we returned to Agrigento we decided to forego dinner and go out for some wine and snacks (Deborah had to have her gelato instead!) and, walking back to our hotel later, we suddenly heard Grande Amore playing somewhere. Knowing it wasn’t the melodious, beautiful voices of our beloved Il Volo, we ran in the direction of the music to see who was singing their song (the music was from the boys’ recording though); it turned out to be a karaoke bar at a sidewalk café, and a guy was singing to the boys’ music. We went in just in time to hear him sing the last part, and two old men started waiving for us to come in and sit with them! LOL!! We had so much fun! (No, we didn’t stay… as soon as “Grande Amore” was finished we hightailed it out of there!)

May 18: Naro

Today we went to Naro to meet Piero’s mother, Eleonora Ognibene.

Oh, by-the-way, “today we went to meet Piero’s mother.”  Do you notice how casual these women have become after meeting almost every important person in Italy,  not counting two-thirds of Il Volo and the Pope?  The Eleonora meeting next. I still want to live where Buddy lives. ~Marie