New Book

It has been way too long since my last post. And I had such high hopes of finishing this new book by this summer! Not there yet–by any means. So much has occupied my mind and time that I have had little energy to get to my writing. I have started, however, and I have an introduction to share. I am still not sure of a title. I started with “Ciao Italia–Our Love Affair with Italy” and have now changed it to “Coming Full Circle–From Italy and Back.” I have no idea at this point what I will end up with. The book is about 1) my Italian heritage and what that means to me; 2) my many trips to Italy; and 3) the process of becoming Italian citizens and our hope of living there one day. I have dedicated the book to our grandparents–who came to America for a better life and consequently left us with the desire to return to the land of our ancestors. Thus the “Coming Full Circle” title. I would appreciate your thoughts on that once you read the Intro. Here’s what I’ve got so far.


It is my fondest desire and wildest dream to live in Italy—at least for an extended period of time, for six months to a year—not just to take another trip to the country of my ancestors. I am 72 years old. I better get to it!

My grandparents (both sets) came to America at the beginning of the last century—more than 100 years ago. Now I want to experience the country they left so long ago, in an intimate way—that only living there can provide. Naturally, life is quite different today than it was for them when they emigrated to the United States, but the cultural warmth and beauty of the land is still there in abundance. I have traveled to Italy several times and I have wonderful memories of those trips, but today I wish to experience more. My daughter has both lived and worked in Italy for more than two years. Now it’s my turn.

This is my second book. When I published my first book, “Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present” (the story of my reconnecting with my high school sweetheart after fifty years), I realized that there was more to tell about our story and how our love of Italy figured into the equation. Not only have Alan and I united our lives in marriage, we reignited a feeling within both of us about our Italian heritage. Together we became aware that there was a powerful pull toward that heritage and that we both desired to make Italy a more prominent part of our lives. I touched upon these sentiments in my first book with a chapter about our connection to Italy and happily and proudly included a piece my daughter wrote after a trip we took together searching for my father’s roots in Montelongo, Italy, in 2002.

My intent at this point is to give a more extensive and detailed look at all of the memorable experiences I have enjoyed while traveling in Italy. I also want to point out how being Italian American has figured so strongly in my life, in my family’s lives, and in my husband, Alan’s life, too. As a matter of fact, prior to our reconnecting, Alan had begun to embark on the task of searching for his Italian roots and planning his own trip to the country of his heritage. Alan is one quarter Italian—the important part!—through his paternal grandfather, Guiseppi Votta. As a couple, we discovered how our Italian heritage began to play such an integral and substantial part in our lives.

This book is an attempt to, first of all, share some of my earliest memories of my maternal grandparents; then to share the many delightful and meaningful moments I have enjoyed in Italy on my own, and those Alan and I have enjoyed together during our travels to Italy; and ultimately to give you a loving picture of our rich heritage. I hope that I am able to convey the beauty in and love of a culture that is so significant to us in so many ways.

I made my first trip to Italy in 1967 as a 23-year-old schoolteacher on a European tour to nine countries. It all became magical for many reasons, but the most momentous part of the trip for me, at least, was meeting my grandfather’s sister, Amalia Marano, and her family in Torino, Italy, and spending two unforgettable days with my newfound relatives. That experience was the start of a relationship that has been most important to all of my family.

After that first trip I did not return to Italy for twenty-two years, although I traveled extensively around the world to many other places during that time. My next trip to Italy was in 1989 with my then thirteen year old daughter, Leigh. My first husband (and my children’s father) and I weren’t very religious and we chose instead to give our children a sort of rite-of-passage trip rather than any sacramental acknowledgment of coming-of-age. My husband took my son on a trip to Africa when he turned thirteen and I chose to take our daughter, Leigh, to Italy the following year when it was her turn. It was an awesome trip and I knew that Leigh enjoyed it, but it took many years for both of us to understand just how influential it would become to her life much later.

I have started my story by attempting to show how much I love being of Italian descent, and then to relay some highlights of my trips to Italy. I’ve also described the arduous task and interesting path of becoming Italian citizens, and how both my daughter, Leigh, and my Italian cousin, Piera Fogliato, have influenced our Italian experience so much.

My husband, Alan, painstakingly and lovingly kept a diary of our trips to Italy, which have helped greatly to keep those memories alive. I have included many of his entries exactly as he originally penned them.

This is not a travel book. Although I have described many magnificent and beautiful spots in the country I love; it is not my intent to entice anyone to take a trip. It is, however, a testament to how much our cultural heritage impacts our lives and how I have embraced it fully.

Everyone loves Italy—no matter what one’s ethnic background. And it is usually a trip of a lifetime for any traveler. For me, it is so much more. It is what makes me ME.

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New Book–“Ciao Italia”

IMAG0034      I am finally at it. I am working diligently on my next book. It seems that I am following the same pattern that I followed with my first book, “Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present.” My pattern is that I start with a general outline, get an Intro written, add a general framework and leave it all for six months or more. When I finally get back to it, I return with a vengeance, and that’s what I have done this time around. I am trying to work daily with a proposed release date for July 2015. However, this time around–I’ve been there before and I know what it takes to get it all done, and I will try my ultimate best to reach my goal. (See previous blogs, “The Journey to Publication–Parts I and II.”)

This new book will be entitled, “Ciao Italia–Our Love Affair With Italy.” It is about our attachment to our heritage, our visits to Italy, growing up Italian, what it means to us to be Italian citizens, and what it took to get there. It is fun. We love Italy and everything about it and we love being Italian-American. I am hoping that all of our experience will resonate with others and give others a pleasant read.

We have had such wonderful times while in Italy together and I made several memorable trips to Italy prior to our coming together again. I think that all of that will have an impact on my readers. Puglia, in the south of Italy, on the Adriatic, is the area where we hope to spend considerable time in the future.

IMAG0023         Look for more updates as time goes on.

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Christmas in Florida

It’s a few days before Christmas and we are just getting into the Christmas spirit. Some folks who are Florida transplants from up north can’t ever get into anything about Christmas down here, but I find it kind of fun. It IS different when you are used to cold weather, snow, and the type of holiday decorating we grew up with. But being in Florida offers something different and just as nice–to me anyway. 

So Merry Christmas to all and a very Happy New Year. Let’s hope that 2015 is a year filled with love, good friends, good cheer, and happy memories for all.

We wish you a very merry!!!!!!
Christmas 2014

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A Happening in Torino

Yesterday was an amazing amazing Thanksgiving–not because of the spectacular weather day it turned out to be in Sarasota, FL,; not because of the wonderful friends who enjoyed the day with us; and not because of the scrumptious meal I created (if I do say so myself!)–but because of the scenario that was simultaneously playing itself out in Torino, Italy.

Le me explain. On Tuesday my Facebook friend, Brandy Burre (actress extraordinaire and a lead in the hit TV series “The Wire” a few years back and currently the star in the highly acclaimed documentary “Actress”) posted on Facebook that she was in Torino, Italy, for the Italian screening of the film that she and director Robert Greene created. So, why do you ask, does this have anything to do with me at all? Well, for two reasons.

Brandy and I became FB friends last April when Brandy and her boyfriend, Chris Bowen, came to Sarasota for the screening of the film at the Sarasota Film Festival. Alan and I have served as volunteer drivers at the festival for two years and I was assigned to pick up Brandy and Chris at the airport. At the time, I didn’t know who Brandy was (not having been a devotee of “The Wire”), and was simply told that she ‘was famous.’ So the night prior to the pickup I did my homework and found out just who Brandy Burre was and what this movie was all about. And I also learned that she was on Facebook too. I brazenly asked her to be my friend! She immediately accepted and the next day when I brandished my little sign ‘Brandy Burre’ at the airport, she said, “Are you my new Facebook friend?” And thus began a whirlwind few days of driving her around Sarasota, film screenings, a new friendship, and fun. After they departed Sarasota we stayed in touch and even tried to get together when the film screened at the Nantucket Film Festival while we were on Martha’s Vineyard.

Italy and particularly, Torino, Italy, have a special meaning for us. Alan and I have dual citizenship and have become Italian citizens. We would love to be able to live there at some point. My very special Italian cousin, Piera, lives in Torino, and we have spent many wonderful days with Piera in Torino and elsewhere in Italy. Piera is very important to all of her American cousins–my extended family.

I knew when I read that Brandy was in Torino that I had to do something to make Piera aware of it and see if I could make a meeting happen. I wrote a few comments to Brandy on her post: Brandy and Chris, you are in Torino!!!!! I am going to tell my cousin Piera to see the movie. And Brandy responded: Please do. I would love to meet them.

And, of course, I immediately sent an email to Piera: Piera, I’ve just learned that an American movie is playing at Cinema Reposi in Torino. It is called “Actress.” We saw this movie in Sarasota last spring at the Sarasota Film Festival. Brandy Burre is the actress and she was a lead in the television series called “The Wire” a few years back. Alan and I became friends with Brandy when they were here. Both Brandy and her boyfriend, Chris Bowen, are in Torino  now for the showing of the movie!!! I wrote a message to her on Facebook to tell her that my cousin lived in Torino. If there is any way for you to see the film, I hope you do. And definitely talk to Brandy and tell her you are my cousin!!!!! Yay!!!! I’ll write again soon. Annie

After several messages back and forth between Brandy and me and also between Piera and me, while getting the day and time correct for the screening, I was hoping upon hope that a meeting would take place and that Piera could see the film. All of this would be happening on Thanksgiving Day. So in the midst of cooking and preparing our Thanksgiving feast and watching the clock and wondering what might be transpiring in Torino, I was delighted to finally receive this email at 12:04 pm (our time) from Piera: Mission……accomplished!!! Brandy and I met today at 2 pm! She was waiting for me outside the cinema, together with Chris, at the end of the screening. It began at 12:00. I got there a little late but I could see most of it. It is a very good movie. I thought that it could be her true story. I liked it and so did a couple of friends of mine there who went to see it too. It’s a kind of move shot in a ‘direct’ way, natural, not done in studios–what we call in Italy ‘realistic’ movies. Very award in the style. She is a very good actress, she acts natural. I told her. It has been so nice to meet; she’s so pretty and natural; I like her so much. She told me how she met you at another film festival in Sarasota. I left her my name, email address, and mobile phone number, telling her she now has a reference here in Torino. She told me to activate the contact with her on Facebook. By the way, I just sent you a request of ‘friendship’ to YOU! Annie, you are always such a lively person, a volcano of energy! Thank you for letting me meet such a nice person. Love to you and Alan! Greetings from 32 TFF–Torino Film Festival. Ciaoooooo!!!! Piera

Don’t you just love how Piera expresses herself in English? You should hear her in Italian! She doesn’t stop! She’s the energetic one. I never quite thought of myself as a volcano of energy–but I’ll take it. We have so much fun with her. I could only anticipate that what I was hoping would occur would be a special meeting between two rather unique individuals. And from a continent away–thanks to social media and the wonders of Facebook–I made it happen! Score one again for Facebook!

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Book Review in the Martha’s Vineyard Times

So happy to have had this review of my book, “Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present” by Holly Nadler published in the October 1, 2014 issue of the MV Times.  She wrote about two Vineyard people (and I’m one of them!) who have incredible love stories to share.  See what she had to say below.

Read local: two Island love stories
A & E  by Holly Nadler – Sep 30, 2014 0

It’s wedding season, a time for love stories on Martha’s Vineyard.
“A Martha’s Vineyard Love Story,” by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson and Skip Finley. $19.95 at Howasswee Shop, Aquinnah; Edgartown Books, Edgartown; and book-signing events.

“Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present,” by Ann Vincola Votta. Paperback, 242 pages. $11.62 from,, and appearing soon in Island bookstores.

A whole bunch of famous, colossally successful writers have never been able to write great characters of the opposite gender. For instance (let’s just say it without getting into a fistfight), Hemingway, Robert B. Parker, and, oh dear, we need a woman — shall we put forward Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, or is Frankenstein perhaps the best male character of all time?

Closer to home, Vineyard and Venice (California) screenwriter Kathleen McGhee-Anderson had an idea for a love story set over the past 50-odd summers amid the elite African-American community of Oak Bluffs. She knew she could bring to life the female protagonist without a hitch, but decided to go for the gold of the male point of view, and asked her friend Skip Finley, writer and media exec, summer visitor to the Island since 1955 and year-round Oak Bluffs resident since 1999, to tell it like it is for the young man of the saga.

Thus was a great collaboration born.

The story begins in the iconic Summer of Love of 1967 when the Four Tops sang, “I’m standing in the shadows of love, I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come.” Dale Eden, student radical, is dragged kicking and screaming to Martha’s Vineyard for the valid purpose — or so say her parents — of extracting her from the perils of “the Movement.” But there’s a major glitch to her parents’ plans: Kaylan Warner, bad boy extraordinaire, a cocky New Yorker with Island roots, is no one’s idea of a good match for the gorgeous and good Dale.

Nor are the fates so hot on the idea.

As much as Dale and Kaylan share a deep-down-to-the-bone passion for each other, other attachments, and family pressure, and life itself — that thing that famously happens when we’re making other plans — all combine to throw a spanner into the works. Through ’72, when the Temptations have “sunshine on a cloudy day,” all the way through the Stylistics’ “Betcha by golly, wow!” of the early 2000s, the reader is rooting for these two star-crossed lovers to put on their aprons and start acting like Donna Reed and Robert Young setting up house together, only with both of them bearing briefcases.

It fell to McGhee-Anderson originally to sketch out the clever plot. Both writers provide vivid characters and winning descriptions of the Vineyard: “It was already warm that morning, you could smell the hot sun on the tar, the gentle salty breeze coming off the Nantucket Sound, the newly cut grass and something indefinable, maybe the wild roses that were starting to bud on the trellis outside.” (McGhee-Anderson). “Most of the Gold Coast neighborhood houses (the Cottage City part of town) had been built in the late 1800s. None had air conditioning but with the windows open on a hot night you could catch enough of a breeze for them to be tolerable.” (Finley).

Not surprisingly, the lady author sets the tone for romance while the gentleman, whom most of us know from his irreproachable Oak Bluffs town column for the Gazette, unleashes a new hot rapper side to his writing, with sizzling language for the libidinous Kaylan. When his co-author asked for male input, she got it in spades.

You can buy copies of “A Martha’s Vineyard Love Story” at Edgartown Books while supplies last. Over the course of the past summer, Mr. Finley and Ms. McGhee-Anderson held several book signings at Cousen Rose Gallery in Oak Bluffs. Watch for it next summer, when a second printing will deliver the best beach read to be set on these shores in a long time.


There’s a second tale of romance, this one a memoir, entitled “Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present” by Ann Vincola Votta, about two kids turning to grownups, also with summer ties to the Vineyard, who meet and greet over and over again until at last all roadblocks are cleared and these original high school sweethearts are, well, as the title says, reunited.

The story behind the Vincola/Votta nuptials was juicy enough to make it into the wedding-announcements section of the New York Times. Ann and Alan met in 1956 as 7th graders in Yonkers, N.Y. They were popular kids with a promising future ahead of them; Ann — for reasons having something to do with a cute boy in her freshman class at college — broke it off with Alan in 1961. That would have been the end of that, had they not rediscovered each other, thanks to the sleuthing wonders of Facebook. As they hooked up again decades later, they found themselves more in love than ever. They triangulated this love on a Charleston to Martha’s Vineyard to Sarasota loop, and tied the knot, which should have been wound up tight back in the ’60s, in March 2010.

At the very least, “Reunited” is a morality tale about sticking with the one you love back in the day. Alan, shaken and stirred by Ann’s sudden breakup, made a pair of disastrous choices in the marriage department. Ann’s one marriage was less than amiable. Both have children, with greater and lesser degrees of parenting success, and family mismanagement runs strong in both their stories. On a more favorable front, both made gains in their professional lives, Ann with a master’s in administration, and with an antiques store on M.V. called Tisbury, and Alan as a franchise owner and a naval officer.

For everyone who enjoys happy endings (and that category may consist of the whole of the human race), “Reunited” is a memoir to take on vacation when the weather forecast is none too bright and you neglected to pack your full-spectrum lamp; that’s how much it might cheer you up.

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Volunteering at the Sarasota Film Festival

We have had such fun volunteering at the Sarasota Film Festival for the past two years and have made great friends as a result. We were so pleased that Marlene (Volunteer Coordinator) highlighted us in the Volunteer Newsletter.

SFF Stars

Volunteers: Alan and Ann Votta

Alan and Ann Votta first caught my attention at the Transportation meeting before the Festival with Ann’s beautiful and friendly smile and Alan’s killer mustache. Throughout the festival, the Vottas would always greet me with a huge smile, a big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. It was during a quick moment of peace in Headquarters, when I learned about their past. Alan and Ann were highschool sweethearts, but they broke up in 1961. 50 years later, after three failed marriages between them, and after reuniting on Facebook, they were wed. Yes, you read the last sentence right…on Facebook.

As a past Junior High School English teacher, Ann wrote a memoir entitled “Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present”. The book includes their individual stories and experiences and how they found each other again. I’ve started reading it and I’m already hooked.

Thank you Alan and Ann for reminding us to continue to have hope. We are so glad you are part of the SFF team!


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And Life Moves On

It has been four months since my last post. Much has happened and changed. The promotion of my book came to a complete halt. One of my last posts described our visit with my mother and sharing my book with her. That experience was very special for Alan and I. When I wrote that blog in September I mentioned that we would be changing Mom’s care plan at her assisted living facility and we were aware that her condition was changing somewhat, but her health was good and we certainly expected that we would be celebrating her 100th birthday next June. Alan and I then spent a few weeks at the Vineyard. My children visited us there, and they carried out the important task of spreading their father’s ashes on the Vineyard, which I wrote about in my last blog. We then headed back to see Mom again before (we thought) taking off to return to Florida. What followed became a nightmare that we never ever expected. My mother passed away on October 20, 2013.

My sister and I needed to see Mom’s doctor, as well as needing to make a decision as to whether we would hire an aide to give her more one on one support. As we began putting that plan into place, we learned from the doctor that Mom most likely had suffered a few mini strokes that had accelerated her dementia and that her weight had dropped–developments that now qualified her for the skilled nursing division of Reeds Landing, which would necessitate another move. We had only a few days to adjust to all of that. I had speculated for a long time prior to this that another change in Mom’s living situation would be extremely difficult for her and that she would not do very well with it. Emma and Alan and I worked quickly and efficiently to clear out her apartment and move some of her belongings downstairs to her new room. She had been very comfortable upstairs in assisted living and cared for by the tremendous staff there. Moving downstairs would cause her to decline rapidly. And that is exactly what happened. She was moved on September 27th. By October 3rd, she had declined so much that Hospice took over her care. Alan and I had remained in Massachusetts for two additional weeks, but felt that we needed to head on down to Florida to take care some of our own issues for a bit, but I fully expected that I would be flying back rather quickly. Our drive home was horrible because Mom had to be taken to the emergency room during our trip. The following week was a nightmare and I did little more than making phone calls to check on Mom’s condition and talk with the Hospice professionals. My sister had had plans to travel to New Orleans to visit her son and I was going to fly up there to be with Mom while Emma and Ed were away for a few days. That never happened and, instead, Alan and I flew to Massachusetts together on Friday, October 18th. Emma, Ed, Alan and I stayed with her until the end which was at 2 a.m. on Sunday, October 20th. It was all way too fast.

We planned her funeral. All of the kids arrived–from LA, New Orleans, Las Vegas, New York, and Providence. They were marvelous and a tremendous help to us. The funeral was somber, but beautiful, as was her internment at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Agawam, MA with my father.

This is the obituary that I wrote, which appeared in the local newspaper and the Westchester County paper in New York.

  • Helen (Marano) Patavino, 99, a resident of Reeds Landing in Springfield, MA, for over nine years, passed away peacefully on Sunday, October 20, 2013. Born in Mount Vernon, NY, Helen was the daughter of the late Anthony and Adelina (DelZio) Marano. Helen lived her early years in Mount Vernon, NY and graduated from Mount Vernon High School as an honor student. She went on to train as a bookkeeper and executive secretary and held many secretarial positions throughout her lifetime, even working on Nelson Rockerfeller’s re-election campaigns. Helen was an executive secretary for Ciba-Geigy Co. of Ardsley, NY prior to her retirement. She married Carmen Patavino on October 8, 1938 in Mount Vernon, NY. After their daughters, Ann and Emma, were born, the family moved to Yonkers, NY, where their family resided for many years. They moved to Hartsdale, NY, in 1964 and resided there until their retirement. Helen and Carmen moved to Wilbraham, MA in 1999 and also spent many winters in St. Augustine, FL. Helen was a warm, elegant, loving daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and great-grandmother, always giving generously of her affection, time, and support. Family was everything to her, but she lived a rich life full of friends, work, travel, golf and tennis, as well as many other interests.
    She is survived by two daughters, Ann Votta and her husband Alan of Sarasota, FL, and Emma Migdal and her husband Edward of Wilbraham, MA, five grandchildren, John Migdal and his wife Jackie, David Vincola, Matthew Migdal and his wife Jennifer, Leigh Vincola, and Mark Migdal, and four great-grandchildren, Macaylan, Brodie, Marley and Miles. She was predeceased by her husband, Carmen A. Patavino, in 2003.

    It is never easy losing someone you love so much, and no matter how old you are, losing a parent is tough. I miss Mom very much. Although I didn’t see her every day, she was never out of my thoughts. And that is the way it remains. I think about her every day and I miss her more and more. It makes me happy, however, to have several things from her apartment now positioned at my house. And I have her ID card from Reeds Landing on my night table, so I say goodnight and good morning to her each and every day.

    And now it is time to get back to promoting my book in order to continue to make her proud.

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