Author of- Travels with George
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Italy and came to the U.S. for college. I’ve been here ever since. I live in rural New Jersey with my son. When he was seven years old, I realized suddenly that I hadn’t been back to Italy in ten years, and I went, and took him along. Then I went four more times, and I wrote a book about those trips, a mix of travelogue, personal history, and little anecdotes.
What prompted you to write about your experiences in Italy?
What possessed me? I am a very shy and private person, and I have no idea what possessed me! I think I felt that what I had to say was a little bit different in that I’m both an Italian native and a tourist. What I find interesting is that my friends who have read the book say it sounds just like me. It’s written in the present tense, so it feels like you are along and I’m talking to you.
What was the most rewarding experience when writing about your own history?
One was finding out more about myself. There’s nothing like having to express a thought to help crystallize it! The other is hearing from others about the things that spoke to them in the book, and they range from the more profound to the totally mundane situations. Women will focus on the mothering aspects of the book, dealing with my son. Men enjoy my description of how Italians give directions: they start from a place you’ve never heard of, proceed vaguely, and stop well before your destination. Apparently that’s happened to others… They can relate, and I love when people tell me they can relate to something I wrote about.
What was the hardest part of writing about your history?
It was hard to write about others and protect their privacy at the same time, particularly with my son. I find him very amusing, but he doesn’t intend to amuse me, and he is sensitive to it. He thinks I’m making fun of him basically. So I’m always walking that line, writing about him, but trying to be respectful of him.
Do you feel more at home in Italy or America?
I’ve lived in the U.S. for so long now, that I’m more comfortable here, leading my daily life. I feel that I wouldn’t know how to live in Italy, I wouldn’t know how to pay bills, how to buy a car, how much a stamp costs… I can get a bit tangled up sometimes. On the other hand, when I go to Italy, if I’m not worrying about the logistics, I just soak it in, and I do have a sense of being home. I love all the little things, the focaccia, the cobblestones, the shoes people wear, the laundry hanging out to dry. It makes me happy, it makes me feel like I belong: this is my place.
What does your son make of your Italian roots?
I don’t know that it speaks to him all that much yet, but I believe (and hope, but I do believe) that the experiences he has had build his knowledge and interests, and that he will find value in it all later on. A lot of my Italian-American friends relish their connection to Italy, and he will have had an extra special connection. I hope and believe… When he brings up something from the trips, I’m all excited. Yes, he was there, he was paying attention, he got it!
Do you have any anecdotes you would like to share here?
My favorite stories are the quirky ones, like the sheep stampede that almost flattened us—not really, it wasn’t that bad, but it was a funny occurrence. We did so many different things, visiting with my ancient relatives, riding the bullet train to Rome, the only passengers without a snack, having coffee with my aunt in the morning, trying to dunk cookies in the little tiny cups, lots of hiking, with my son resorting to tears to make us stop. One nice thing about the book is that it covers lots of different material, from the very simple happenings to the tourist destinations.
If you had the chance to live anywhere else in the world, where would it be? (Such as in a tipi in the Amazon.)
It would be different places, I would live somewhere for a while and then try somewhere else. I would be an itinerant resident. I’m pretty sure I would start somewhere in Italy.
Do you have any upcoming works that we can look forward to?
I’m working on two new projects. I’m working on a book of travels with my son in the U.S. America is so varied, there’s so much to see and do. The other project is around cooking with my mother. She is a fantastic cook, and I can’t boil an egg. I am building a book around her recipes, and around her and me. I think it will be really cool.
Where can we find / follow you?
I have a little website at http://olgavannucci.com with some pictures and some snippets from the book.
I also have a Facebook page that can be reached via http://travelswithgeorge.com. I update it pretty actively.
And the book is on Amazon, both the printed and the Kindle versions, at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=olga+vannucci
In her travels with her young son, George, Olga Vannucci strolls and hikes through the landscapes of her Italian childhood, in five separate trips, visiting cherished people and places and describing them with joy and amusement. The writing is warm and refreshing, and the experiences vivid and touching — you will want to come along. The author, born in Italy and living in New Jersey, looks at Italy as both a local native and an awed visitor.