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A Meal with Friends

faith Jun 30, 2024
A Meal with Friends | George A. Arangio, M.D.

From savoring authentic espresso and leisurely evening strolls to exploring historical sites and enjoying home-cooked meals with friends, my Dad's narrative captures the essence of Italian culture, history, and culinary delights as he and Mom share their experiences in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.

It is a clear and evergreen morning in Fogelsville where all is calm. I hope your day is going well. 

Judy and I took a trip to Italy back in 2011, and let me tell you, it was a journey filled with savoring authentic espresso, evening strolls, exploring historical sites and enjoying home-cooked meals with friends. This narrative captures the essence of Italian culture, history, and culinary delights in Emilia-Romagna.

When I retired in 2010, I was repeatedly asked, “So how do you spend your time?”  After a few weeks, it was necessary to have an answer. “I am going to write a book” I said. Then, I had to prepare to write a book. A book about what? I was torn between a spiritual guide for my family and a memoir about my life and Italy. I chose to publish We Talk with God.

We Talk with God is a scripture-based guide to God’s advice that will boost your spiritual energy, bring you peace, and enrich your life. For further insights and discussion, go to:

In 2011, Judy and I visited Italy and enjoyed things Italian. When we travel, we have conversations with locals at the market. Most Italians understand English and seem to enjoy when we share things. Italians appreciate Americans and are grateful for our efforts in WWII. An authentic visit includes enjoying espresso the Italian way, strong and quick; and joining la passeggiata, the leisurely evening stroll, after dinner with family and friends. Authenticity is investigating Italian history and architecture around each corner and the beautiful Cedar lined hills (colli) of Tuscany.

It is staying in a villa and feeling that you are at home with friends or laundering your clothes at the Lavanderia (laundromat).

Beautiful Toscano, Italy

In 2011, we specifically visited Parma, a people friendly city and my favorite city, in Emilia Romagna. Our friends Mario and Giulianna facilitated my 6-week visit. Judy joined me for two weeks. I stayed at Residence Le Volte Apartments. They are modern, clean and about 1 mile outside the center of Parma. It is easy walking distance and on the bus route. Le Volte provides 5-star 1 and 2-bedroom apartments for a minimum of 1-week or long-term stay.

Emilia-Romagna is in central Italy and stretches to the Adriatic Sea in the East. It is divided into nine provinces:  Bologna, the capital city, Ferrara, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Forlì, Rimini and Ravenna. Two geographic land formations exist, a fertile, low-lying plain in the North and East, which includes the Po, Secchia, Panaro, and Reno rivers. Centuries of reclamation by the Venetian and Romanian citizens and the sea breeze have made the Po Delta soil especially suitable for growing the “Riso (Rice) del Delta del Po IGP.” The Apennine Mountains divide Italy from lush north to the arid south. Part of my family, the Romagnoli’s, come from Emilia-Romagna.

Emilia refers to Via Aemilia, an important road that connected Rome to the northern part of Italy and was named after the consul Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in 187 BC. The coastal area, which was ruled under the Byzantine Empire centered in Constantinople from 540 to 751, became known as the separate region of Romagna. The Germanic Lombards extended the official name of the Empire to the lands around Ravenna and Ravenna was the capital of the Italian portion of the Byzantine Empire. Emilia–Romagna was governed by the northern Italian Etruscans, the Celtic Gauls and then the Romans.

On the Adriatic, Ravenna is a treasure chest of art, mosaics, history and culture. Themes of Christ’s salvation mission dominate. The poet Dante Alighieri who wrote “The Divine Comedy” is buried in Ravenna. 

Fresco Baptism of Christ, Parma Baptistery, by Benedetto Antelami, 12th Century

Sacrifice of Isaac mosaic, Basilica di San Vitale, c 547 AD, Ravenna, Italy

During the Middle Ages, culture flourished thanks to the region's monks in the monasteries. In the 5th and 6th centuries, after the pagan hordes decimated the Roman empire, Monasticism was central to the development of medieval European society. From their base in Ireland, Monks provided the foundation for creating a sense of Christian community and order in an era characterized by political turmoil and warfare. They migrated to England, France, and back to Italy.

Monasteries were important centers of learning, and their educational institutions were among the few in Europe at the time. They developed a system of scriptoria, where monks carefully transcribed and preserved ancient texts, saving them from being lost to history.

Monks also advanced the fields of science and medicine, making significant contributions to herbal medicine and brewing techniques. Monks played a crucial role in the development of Western art, literature, and music. They also had a significant influence in the development of Gothic architecture across Europe. Additionally, monks were among the first to develop legal codes, and their contributions served as the foundation of modern Western legal systems. In the early Middle Ages (roughly 500 to 1050), monasteries served as the primary centers of education in Western Europe. However, over the course of the later eleventh and twelfth centuries, the cathedral schools of Europe’s growing cities (Bologna, Paris) played a significant role in higher learning. By the thirteenth century, these schools had evolved into what we now recognize as universities.

From the 11th to16th century, the territory of Parma, Piacenza, and Modena were Papal States and remained independent. From 1545 to 1796 the Farnese family, and the House of Este, controlled virtually all of Emilia. Emilia was ruled by the French from 1797 to 1814. In 1860 all of Emilia-Romagna was joined to the kingdom of Sardinia, which in 1861 became the kingdom of Italy. In the 20th century Emilia has been a center of socialism and communism in Italy. Bologna was governed by the Italian communist party from 1950 to 2000.

In Emilia Romagna, are found the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world (1088) and universities at Ferrara, Modena, and Parma. The great composer Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was born in 1813 near Busseto to a rural family of moderate means. In his early operas, Verdi demonstrated sympathy for the unification of Italy. He wrote the opera Aida (1871), and three masterpieces: his Requiem (1874), and the operas Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893). His operas remain extremely popular, especially the three peaks of his 'middle period': Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata.

On a more modern note, Americans ask how “fast food” is doing in Italy. Well, if you ask the Italians, they invented fast food: la pizza, il panini (sandwich) and the quick espresso. But how about McDonald’s? An Italian friend says “American fast food in Italy is children’s food.” Once, in Milan’s Galleria, we ate in McDonald’s which had an Italian touch to it. Notable were the tablecloths and the absence of paper plates and plastic utensils. The prices were about 20% less expensive than the ristorante next door. To survive in Italy, McDonald’s is adapting to the Italian consumer. In the railroad station in Modena, the McDonald’s sign is prominent, but the food and service were clearly Italian. They offer fresh panini and espresso and pizza “pockets” filled with cheese and dolci (desert) and of course hamburgers. Today, fast food occupies 28% of the Italian market.

Italians are passionate about eating and cooking and all things culinary. The Italian is a “slow food” aficionado from the homemade meal in the smallest hilltop villages to IL Platano, Executive Chef: Michele Zambanini, Villa D’Este on Lake Como.

Judy and I visited our friends Mario and Giulianna in Parma. We met as Mario, who owned Renaissance Travel Agency in Parma, guided us and members of the Morgagni Society on many tours throughout Italy. We had the pleasure of being entertained in their home for the mid-day meal. Giulianna is passionate about cooking and keeps an authentic upscale kitchen (cucina). She shops every morning at the open-air Central Market in a small piazza near the Teatro di Regio in the center of Parma. Ask for “Jonnie”, the owner, and tell him Giulianna sent you. Only the best and freshest vegetables, herbs, fruits, meats and fishes pass through Jonnie’s hands.

Her mid-day meal was preceded by Prosecco and l’aqua frizzante (sparkling water) and l’aqua naturale. The meal started with an antipasto of prosciutto di Parma and an assortment of cheeses including parmigiano reggiano, casca-cavallo di Roma and the always present fresh semolina homemade bread. Next, we are served il primo ditalini pasta. Giulianna makes a wonderful pasta dish of cecci beans, soaked overnight, and ditalini pasta in a savory herb gravy complimented by thinly sliced fried zucchini chips. Her secret is to add a small bit of flour at the last minute to thicken the gravy. This was paired with a dry two-year-old Gutterino vino rosso (red wine) from the vineyards of Piacenza about 50 miles northwest of Parma.

Ditalini and Ceci beans

Next came il secondo (protein dish) which this afternoon was porchetta involtini (pork rolls) called braciole in the south and bruciuluni in Sicily. Giulianna places prosciutto and cheese and herbs on the pork and rolls it, secured with small toothpicks. They are seared over a high heat and then covered and simmered until fork tender. Mario served the region’s Lambrusco secco (dry red) wine, a spectacular deep ruby red. As always, we talked about soccer and the family recipes.

Like a great book or a great piece of music the ending is important, and Italians always finish a meal with fresh fruit and a special dolce (desert) and of course, expresso. Giulianna prepared homemade torte di mele (apple pie). “If you do not make the crust, it is not your pie”, states this very good cook. It was a delicious end to a delicious meal and a significant day with friends. Guilianna promises to send us her most secret recipes.

In the next few weeks, I will be traveling with you to Academia Barilla and two vineyards in the hills of Parma.

Travel and conversation with friends and family at the dinner table are all instruments to be used in our journey with God. They are blessed moments.

Have a blessed day, and may it be full of successes guided by God.

Until next time, God bless you and stay well.

George A. Arangio, M.D.

P.S. Keep We Talk with God at your bedside and share it with your family.

P.P.S. Please ask three (3) of your family and friends to read We Talk with God. It may be the answer to their prayers. And give a rating and a review. Thank you.



The theme of the blog post centers around the deep appreciation and immersion in authentic Italian culture during a visit to Italy. It highlights the significance of personal connections, local traditions, and historical exploration. The post emphasizes the richness of Italian culinary practices, the beauty of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, and the joy of experiencing daily life as the locals do, from enjoying espresso and evening strolls to savoring home-cooked meals with friends. It also contrasts Italian and American culinary traditions, showcasing Italy's unique approach to food and hospitality.



George A. Arangio, M.D., is the author of We Talk with God, a scripture-based guide to God’s advice that will boost your spiritual energy, bring you peace, and enrich your life. It is full of simple lessons. It shows how God’s Word guarantees answers to life’s important questions. It may also be the answer to your prayers. Please read it and write a review on For further insights and discussion, visit

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