This summer a neighbor, Isabelle Seavey, introduced Warren friends to her houseguest, Maria Ulivella Mosconi, from Trieste, a port city of 200,000 people in northeastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea. Ulli, a lovely, petite, well-traveled woman was visiting for about three weeks.
A neighbor hosted a luncheon the day after Ulli arrived. Then, the visitor and her hostess went on a two-week odyssey by car to Pittsburgh; Winston Salem, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Atlanta; Nashville, Tenn.; Lexington, Ky.; and back to Warren.
I had an opportunity to become acquainted with Ulli the day before she flew home to Italy. Our respective language pronunciation and word usage was a challenge, but we adjusted and communicated well.
To stimulate conversation I indicated my interest in her life and that of her family. I wanted to learn about issues in her country that she might think of interest to Americans; but in essence, I encouraged her to tell me whatever she chose to say.
This was her fourth visit to America and second one to Warren in the past seven years. In anticipation of her talk with me, Ulli had prepared several pages of thoughtful notes about her collective experiences, as any excellent elementary school teacher of 20 years would likely do.
Before Ulli departed for the road tour, Isabelle and Rick invited her to join them to view the Fourth of July celebration at Packard Park. Rick told me this was exciting for their guest. Ulli had never seen such an extensive display of fireworks. It was "breathtaking for her." Then, there was an occasion for men and women in the audience who were in the active military or veterans of the military to stand and be recognized publicly for their service. When they stood, Ulli was amazed with disbelief. "In Italy," she said, "in a like situation, no one who is or was in the military would stand!" To them, it seems, that would be bragging.
One of the first details of interest for me was that a woman's legal identity card in Italy features her maiden name, unlike use of the husband's surname in most American situations. I have since learned a number of American women already knew that.
Italy, like many countries in Europe, is in temporary economic decline. A symptom of this event is that Ulli's husband, who recently retired from a responsible management position with the railroad, was not replaced by a successor. How his former work is done now is not readily known, but his retirement, one presumes, reduced his employer's expenditures.
Ulli is concerned about full-time employment for her children: a daughter, Francesca, graduates from university in October. The young lady has an internship with an engineering firm and hopes it will turn into a full time job in the fall.
The son, Paolo, age 25, graduated from university with a degree in economics and is employed part time in marketing computers. He lives at home with his parents, "which is not uncommon," his mother said. "Some men here don't leave home until they are 40, because they can't afford to do so." Some call them the "mammoni."
Northern Italy has a higher standard of living than the near by Balkan countries and some parts of southern Italy. "Eighty percent of our population owns a home," she said. The birth rate, she reported, is 1.2 percent. Immigrants are coming from Albania and parts of Africa to do available work. There are also illegal immigrants, who are a considerable social challenge to the nation.
Ulli shared some valued insights: "Don't compare when you go abroad - prices, cleanliness, means of transportation, nothing. Find out how others live. Anyone can teach me something. It is better to be in touch with people than visiting museums, monuments and architecture. Most visitors only focus on the past.
"My husband and I discovered NYC by ourselves. It was simple because Manhattan is easy to get around in. The city is like an icon, a symbol for all of us. It was shocking to see Ground Zero. I had gone through the terrorist attack live, watching TV. I will never forget those images and the emotional involvement."
Ciao, Ulli. Come see us again.