Soo This is Awkward…


Though the iconic “American Girl in Italy” was shot over 60 years ago, its portrayal of Italian men is still alarmingly accurate. After a little research, I was ecstatic to read that it wasn’t at all staged; 29 year old Ruth Orkin couldn’t have captured a better photo if she tried! She had simply been “horsing around” with friend and fellow twenty-something female traveler Ninalee Craig. I feel like the three of us could have been best friends <3. The young studs in that photo are now likely well into their eighties, and while their health may have deteriorated, their feisty, flirtatious spirits have not.

While most nonnos on both my trips have been beyond respectful, some have been frisky and borderline inappropriate. Others have leaped over that border and proudly settled on the other side. Though I’ve gotten a kick out of a lot of them and been playful back with some, I’m not quick to be flattered; it’s not me, it’s them. 😐

“Many people with dementia still have sexual urges – and want to act on them. But with poor impulse control and self-censorship, and lacking the ability to read a social situation as they once did, these feelings can lead someone to behave in ways considered socially wrong.

Advances can range from suggestive comments to propositioning, and from flirtatious touches to groping.” Paula Spencer Scott

I’m neutral. I’m the young (is 27 still “young”?) American volunteer who they’ll likely never see again. No matter how inappropriate or unwarranted, their advances won’t hurt my feelings; I can address them properly and we’ll all move on. This is much easier said than done for a family member, friend, or caregiver, and understandably so!

“Know that for an adult child, this can be one of the more distressing problems to deal with – especially when you’re the target of the unwanted advances. The mix of shock, distaste, guilt, and confusion you may feel is absolutely normal. It’s the ultimate muddling of your social roles.” Paula Spencer Scott

It’s essential to keep in mind that the nonno or nonna (the ladies are guilty of it too!) isn’t thinking incest or expressing deep-rooted feelings; they truly believe you’re someone else. It has nothing to do with how you are or aren’t acting toward them, either – though I’m playful and outgoing, I certainly don’t solicit sexual advances from 90 year old men.

Since they’re sincerely confused and mistaken, try not to shame or embarrass them. When greeting your loved one, perhaps you can subtly specify what your relationship is. A translated personal example: “Good morning, Mr. Casoni! Your favorite American caregiver is here!” 😉 (AKA the only American caregiver, ma non fa niente) You can gently (but firmly) set a boundary, or even distract them by introducing a fresh activity or offering a snack to satisfy a different type of physical craving. I know I’d accept Nutella in place of making out. 😛

Making Out With Mr. Reaper

Born and raised in suburban New Jersey, I have never been familiar with or a fan of strenuous outdoor activities. I love any body of water, am a certified SCUBA diver, and have my boating license, but before traveling abroad I’d never stepped foot on a mountain or spent any considerable amount of time exercising outside. I don’t even like exercising inside, let alone in the woods – give me sand, but keep the grass.

Here in Italy, however, “trekking” is huge. What exactly is trekking, though? I have always naively assumed it to be “hiking,” or walking briskly up a clearly defined, easily navigable trail to a viewpoint. Trekking attire, I’d imagined, consists of leggings, UnderArmour, and colorful sneakers. I often see Italians using sticks (?! canes maybe?! who knows), but figured perhaps those trekkers had equilibrium imbalances to begin with. I’m 26; I can trek without the stick.

This past week, I learned the hard way what this trekking actually entails. After reading the few articles I could find about getting to Lake Sorapiss in the Dolomites, I excitedly told my friend Chrissy to pack sneakers for an easy walk to a beautiful hidden gem. Specifically, I referred to this excerpt on

From Passo Tre Croci, 1,45 hours; sign n. 215: from the Passo go downhill, towards Misurina. Enter the comfortable road on the right that after few ups and downs will lead to the Rifugio Vandelli, and from here to the lake.”

Perfetto, facciamo così! It said it’d take an hour and 45 minutes, but we’re two young, relatively in-shape girls – we’d for sure make it in just over an hour. Should I even put my hair up? It sounds like I won’t even sweat…?

At Passo Tre Croci, we parked our Fiat500 and prepped for our adventure: I tied my neon pink Nike Shox and threw my coat in the back seat (it was sunny!), while Chrissy zipped her leather jacket and put some euros in her Chanel. We didn’t drink, we didn’t stretch, and we certainly did not pack supplies or carry sticks. We were ready! 😀

Long story short, the trek was an f’ing nightmare. We scaled the Dolomite mountains, climbed iron ladders, clutched steel ropes, and kissed death on the lips. None of that compares to the most terrifying part of our journey, though: WE CROSSED AN F’ING GLACIER. A glacier. Un ghiacciaio. A large body of ice moving slowly down a slope or valley or spreading outward on a land surface, according to Merriam Webster.

At first, we had no idea what it was. How beautiful! We’ve stumbled across some large white structure.. Maybe stone? Granite? We’re in the Dolomites, isn’t there lots of granite? Once we approached this gorgeous mass and I was able to touch it, though, I realized it was a snowy, icy, slippery, freezing-cold glacier. How fun, we get to cross a glacier!!!

For those unfamiliar with glacier crossing techniques and equipment, this website serves as an incredibly helpful resource. Apparently, those sticks are useful, and my Shox are a joke when it comes to this kind of terrain. Glacier walks are extremely dangerous and require not only advanced equipment, but a certain degree of experience or, at minimum, an accompanying guide. Nevermind the initial peck on the lips – death’s tongue was down our throats.

Three hours and two panic attacks later, we arrived at Lake Sorapiss, one of the most stunning natural phenomena I have ever seen IRL. We were able to have a quick coffee at Rifugio Vandelli before hurriedly beginning our trek back to Passo Tre Croci to beat the sunset. I will refrain from describing our return trip over il ghiacciaio, as I’m truthfully not ready to revisit it. Let’s just say that if it’s soon announced that either of us is knocked up, we know who the father is: Mr. Grim Reaper himself.

All of that being said, Sorapiss is totally worth it.. as long as you are not a member of my family or a friend who’d like me to join you. In any other case, go for it! Just please, for the love of God our Savior, bring a stick.