A special mamma’s day

by Rebecca Bricker on May 13, 2013

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in Italy, just like in the U.S. But here, there’s not a lot of hoopla about it. No commercial bombardment about gifts for mom or endless waits at restaurants.

I’m 7,000 miles away from the adorable boy who made me a mom. He seems happy and well and is finishing up the first year of his graduate program at Berkeley (studying thermal dynamics and working as a TA, helping undergrads understand the wonders of heat transfer 😉 ). I printed up this photo of us from his graduation last May – and made my own Mother’s Day card, remembering that happy day.

I recently met an American woman here in Florence whose kids have grown and flown, too – or maybe they’ve grown and we’ve flown? We decided to spend our Italian “mamma’s day” together, giving ourselves a gift of a Sunday train trip into the Tuscan countryside, to the ancient village of Certaldo.

Certaldo is the resting place of Italian Renaissance writer and poet Giovanni Boccoccio – sometimes referred to as Italy’s Chaucer. This year is the 700th anniversary of Boccoccio’s birth – imagine being born in the year 1313 (a numerologist’s delight). His home is now a museum, in a building restored after the British Royal Air Force bombed the village during the Second War, as it’s called here.

Certaldo Alta, the “high” town that overlooks the “new” town below, can be reached by walking a steep winding path or riding a funicolare. My friend Lisa and I rode the funicular and felt like we were time traveling from the New World to the Old.

Certaldo Alta has one main street with a few shops, restaurants and an excellent gelateria – which we visited after we had lunch at a little trattoria called Osteria da Chichibio, named for a Boccoccio tale about a cook and a one-legged crane. We lingered, as Italians do over Sunday lunch, savoring every sip of the glass of Brunello di Montalcino we each had ordered. It was Mamma’s Day, after all. 😉

During the course of lunch and our afternoon together, Lisa and I talked about the similar paths we’re taking in life. We are sister spirits in our shedding of houses and belongings as we’ve launched ourselves on our excellent Italian adventures. We talked about our children and how they, too, have launched themselves into the world. Lisa’s son is a professional rock climber who travels the globe. I know my son, Colin, also a climber of rocks, would love to meet him. And maybe someday he will.

Late in the afternoon, Lisa and I stopped at a lovely ceramics shop called Artesia, where women artisans create exquisite pieces of majolica using time-tested glazes, pigments and techniques. Lisa bought a lovely bowl for her daughter. I was drawn to a pitcher with an elongated spout and a swirl of exotic flowers.

“What flowers are these?” I asked Cinzia (Italian for Cynthia), the artist who painted the pitcher.

“They’re fantasy flowers,” she said, smiling.

“I like fantasies.” I smiled, too.

I bought the pitcher and an olive “boat” – a long, slender holder for olives. Since I’m now living in a place where olives are in abundance, I thought it would be nice to have a boat for them. (Tuscan olives will be a savory complement to my margaritas this summer, don’t you think?)


As I unwrapped my ceramics purchases at day’s end, I looked at my olive boat and couldn’t help but think of the many voyages in life I’ve launched from sandy beaches and rocky shores. I’ve not always had the wind at my back. When I set sail as a single mom, exactly 13 years ago, I tried my best to keep the boat from rocking too hard for my adorable boy. He and I have weathered life’s storms together and enjoyed amazing adventures – and now he’s sailing seas of his own.

It can be the hardest day of a mother’s life, pushing her child’s boat out to sea. But I say to all the women who are standing on the beach, wondering WHAT NEXT – get yourself into a boat of your own and know that no matter where the tide takes you, you’ll always have e-mail and Skype to keep tabs on that kidlet of yours. And know that there will be sister spirits wherever you go who’ll become your traveling companions.

Last night, when I came home from Certaldo, there was an e-mail message waiting for me from my adorable boy:

“Happy Mother’s Day to the best mom in the world.”

Ahhhhhhhh. :)




Footnote:  The lovely floral prints next to my olive boat were made by Walter Sarfatti (whose British mother married an Italian gentleman). His exquisite work is on exhibit at his laboratorio di grafica at Palazzo Giannozzi (Certaldo Alta), where the Artesia ceramics studio is also located.



Thom May 13, 2013 at 10:03 am

Happy Mothers’ Day … sounds like you had it all – ending with a wonderful reminder that love stretches across oceans, mountains, and borders.
And, as always, you made me smile with your telling.


Rebecca Bricker May 13, 2013 at 10:10 am

Truly, T – love’s heart strings go ’round the world. :)

Anne Barr May 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I know that free spirited, wayward American friend of yours, Lisa. Lacing up your shoes with that gal is always an adventure! Give her a hug from me!

Rebecca Bricker May 15, 2013 at 3:38 am

Anne, lace up your shoes and come have some fun with us! I’ll pass on that hug! 😉

Sally Serpico May 15, 2013 at 3:03 am

Ah, Certaldo Alta – my favorite place in the world!! We’ve stayed at Il Castello many, many times and I have several beautiful pieces from Artesia – a wine cooler – a small wine pitcher – an enormous pasta bowl – and, guess what, an olive boat!! We spent our 40th wedding anniversary there with a group of friends – prosecco on the terrace at Il Castello, a wonderful meal and then a stroll through the quiet street. You brought back some wonderful memories. Should you go again, please stop in at Il Castello and say hello to Romana for me. Good Sailing!

Rebecca Bricker May 15, 2013 at 3:42 am

Sally, a fellow Olive boatmate 😉 – glad to hear this post brought back happy memories for you. Certaldo Alta is a gem of a place. I hope to go back in the next couple of weeks. I’ll stop in at Il Castello and tell Romana “ciao” from you.

Jackie Lamothe May 19, 2013 at 3:23 am

Another lovely story, R.

walter sarfatti September 19, 2014 at 10:38 am

Rebecca, hello, you may not believe me but only just now I saw the Certaldo pictures you made last year! and thank you so much for mentioning me as well.
Hope to see you when you come back from your wonderful French voyage.
arrivederci, from Walter Sarfatti

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