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What Kids Say About Carole Marsh Mysteries . . . “I love the real locations! Reading the book always makes me want to go and visit them all on our next family vacation. My Mom says maybe, but I can’t wait!” “One day, I want to be a real kid in one of Ms. Marsh’s mystery books. I think it would be fun, and I think I am a real character anyway. I filled out the application and sent it in and am keeping my fingers crossed!” “History was not my favorite subject till I starting reading Carole Marsh Mysteries. Ms. Marsh really brings history to life. Also, she leaves room for the scary and fun.” “I think Christina is so smart and brave. She is lucky to be in the mystery books because she gets to go to a lot of places. I always wonder just how much of the book is true and what is made up. Trying to figure that out is fun!” “Grant is cool and funny! He makes me laugh a lot!!” “I like that there are boys and girls in the story of different ages. Some mysteries I outgrow, but I can always find a favorite character to identify with in these books.” “They are scary, but not too scary. They are funny. I learn a lot. There is always food which makes me hungry. I feel like I am there.”


What Parents and Teachers Say About Carole Marsh Mysteries . . . “I think kids love these books because they have such a wealth of detail. I know I learn a lot reading them! It’s an engaging way to look at the history of any place or event. I always say I’m only going to read one chapter to the kids, but that never happens—it’s always two or three, at least!” —Librarian “Reading the mystery and going on the field trip—Scavenger Hunt in hand—was the most fun our class ever had! It really brought the place and its history to life. They loved the real kids characters and all the humor. I loved seeing them learn that reading is an experience to enjoy!” —4th grade teacher “Carole Marsh is really on to something with these unique mysteries. They are so clever; kids want to read them all. The Teacher’s Guides are chock full of activities, recipes, and additional fascinating information. My kids thought I was an expert on the subject—and with this tool, I felt like it!” —3rd grade teacher “My students loved writing their own Real Kids/Real Places mystery book! Ms. Marsh’s reproducible guidelines are a real jewel. They learned about copyright and more & ended up with their own book they were so proud of!” —Reading/Writing Teacher “The kids seem very realistic—my children seemed to relate to the characters. Also, it is educational by expanding their knowledge about the famous places in the books.” “They are what children like: mysteries and adventures with children they can relate to.” “Encourages reading for pleasure.” “This series is great. It can be used for reluctant readers, and as a history supplement.”


By Carole Marsh


Copyright ©2006 Carole Marsh/ Gallopade International Third Printing January 2010 Ebook edition Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Carole Marsh Mysteries™ and its skull colophon are the property of Carole Marsh and Gallopade International. Published by Gallopade International/Carole Marsh Books. Printed in the United States of America. Managing Editor: Sherry Moss Cover Design: Michele Winkelman Editorial Assistant: Jacqueline Arnold Picture Credits: The publisher would like to thank the following for their kind permission to reproduce the cover photographs. © 2006 JupiterImages Corporation Roman Colosseum; Spooky Hand; Pantheon Dome; Trevi Fountain

Gallopade International is introducing SAT words that kids need to know in each new book we publish. The SAT words are bold in the story. Look for this special logo beside each word in the glossary. Happy Learning!

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30 Years Ago . . . As a mother and an author, one of the fondest periods of my life was when I decided to write mystery books for children. At this time (1979) kids were pretty much glued to the TV, something parents and teachers complained about the way they do about web surfing and blogging today. I decided to set each mystery in a real place—a place kids could go and visit for themselves after reading the book. And I also used real children as characters. Usually a couple of my own children served as characters, and I had no trouble recruiting kids from the book’s location to also be characters. Also, I wanted all the kids—boys and girls of all ages—to participate in solving the mystery. And, I wanted kids to learn something as they read. Something about the history of the location. And I wanted the stories to be funny. That formula of real+scary+smart+fun served me well. I love getting letters from teachers and parents who say they read the book with their class or child, then visited the historic site and saw all the places in the mystery for themselves. What’s so great about that? What’s great is that you and your children have an experience that bonds you together forever. Something you shared. Something you both cared about at the time. Something that crossed all age levels—a good story, a good scare, a good laugh! 30 years later,

Carole Marsh


Hey, kids! As you see—here we are ready to embark on another of our exciting Carole Marsh Mystery adventures! You know, in "real life," I keep very close tabs on Christina, Grant, and their friends when we travel. However, in the mystery books, they always seem to slip away from Papa and me so that they can try to solve the mystery on their own! I hope you will go to www.carolemarshmysteries.com and apply to be a character in a future mystery book! Well, the Mystery Girl is all tuned up and ready for "take-off!" Gotta go...Papa says so! Wonder what I've forgotten this time? Happy "Armchair Travel" Reading, Mimi


About the Characters Christina, age 10: Mysterious things really do happen to her! Hobbies: soccer, Girl Scouts, anything crafty, hanging out with Mimi, and going on new adventures. Grant, age 7: Always manages to fall off boats, back into cactuses, and find strange clues—even in real life! Hobbies: camping, baseball, computer games, math, and hanging out with Papa. Mimi is Carole Marsh, children’s book author and creator of Carole Marsh Mysteries, Around the World in 80 Mysteries, Three Amigos Mysteries, Criss, Cross, Applesauce Detective Agency Mysteries, and many others. Papa is Bob Longmeyer, the author’s reallife husband, who really does wear a tuxedo, cowboy boots and hat, fly an airplane, captain a boat, speak in a booming voice, and laugh a lot!

Travel around the world with Christina and Grant as they visit famous places in 80 countries, and experience the mysterious happenings that always seem to follow them!


Books in This Series #1 The Mystery at Big Ben (London, England) #2 The Mystery at the Eiffel Tower (Paris, France) #3 The Mystery at the Roman Colosseum (Rome, Italy) #4 The Mystery of the Ancient Pyramid (Cairo, Egypt) #5 The Mystery on the Great Wall of China (Beijing, China) #6 The Mystery on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) #7 The Mystery at Mt. Fuji (Tokyo, Japan) #8 The Mystery in the Amazon Rainforest (South America) #9 The Mystery at Dracula’s Castle (Transylvania, Romania) #10 The Curse of the Acropolis (Athens, Greece) #11 The Mystery at the Crystal Castle (Bavaria, Germany) #12 The Mystery in Icy Antarctica #13 The Rip-Roaring Mystery on the African Safari (South Africa) #14 The Breathtaking Mystery on Mount Everest (The Top of the World)


Table of Contents 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

On Top of Spaghetti. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01 Benvenuto, Welcome to Italy! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Making New Friends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Grant, Kidnapped?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 The Praying Trench Coat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Going for a Swim! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 The Road to Florence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 The Grand Tour. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Art After Death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Mistaken Trench Coat Identity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 The Getaway . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Masquerading Carnivale in Venice . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 The Revelry of Carnivale. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 S-A-G . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Berlini’s Obelisk—A Clue? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 Time is Running Out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 No Time for Sundials. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 Gobs of Gladiators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 Arrivederci! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 About the Author. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 Book Club . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128 Glossary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132


Italy


On Top of Spaghetti

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1 On Top of Spaghetti “On top of SpaGHETTI, all covered with CHEEEESE,” Grant giggled and sang in a loud and out-of-tune key as the plane prepared to land at the Pisa International Airport. “Come on, Christina, join me!” Grant, seven, was doing his best to get his sister, Christina, to sing the song with him. “I lost my poor meatBALLLLL when I had to SNeeeeeeeeeZZZZE.” Kachoo-Kachoo, Grant pretended to sneeze all over his sister’s shirt. “Ewww, Grant!” Christina squealed as she frowned at her brother. “You are soooooo silly!” She flopped back in her seat and looked at Grant’s pleading face. “Okay, okay, I’ll sing,” she gave in with a giggle.


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“But, not so loud this time!” The view of Italy was becoming clearer as the plane began its descent toward the magnificent Mediterranean country. “It rolled off the TAAAAble and onto the flOOOr,” the two crooned together, “and then my poor MEATballlll rolled out of the dOOOr.” “I hope we eat pizza and calzones and meatballs and lots and lots of spaghetti while we are in Italy!” Grant exclaimed. “You might get lucky,” said Papa. “I hear my good friend Mario’s wife, Isabella, is a great cook. Isn’t that right, Mimi?” Mimi looked up over her glittery pink reading glasses. “Oh, she has shared some of her very special family recipes with me over the internet,” Mimi said. “I’m looking forward to some of her gnocchi—they’re potato dumplings, mmm, mmm, mmm, and Italian Wedding Soup, with the little meatballs. Yum!” Mimi went back to packing up the laptop she was using to write the outline for her newest mystery book, set in Italy. Papa was reviewing some notes he was using to help Mimi with her research. Christina, ten, was thrilled to be going to Italy for her very first time. How lucky for her and Grant that Papa was coming to see his good


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friend and enjoy the Carnivale holiday during their school’s winter break. As usual, Papa was in charge of making all of the travel arrangements. They were sure to see some wonderful sights while in Italy in spite of all the book research Mimi and Papa would be doing together. For Christina, it was very exciting to get a new stamp in her passport and to explore a new country. She was especially looking forward to taking the Eurostar, Italy’s fastest train. Rome would be fun to explore, too, since she had heard so much about the Roman Empire in social studies class. In fact, Christina had asked if they would be flying in to the large international airport in Rome, but Papa had explained the smaller Pisa International Airport was very accessible and closer to his friend’s villa. Christina knew that Papa would have rather been flying his little red and white airplane, The Mystery Girl. She had been a gift from Mimi, and he really loved flying. Christina knew they would be covering quite a bit of territory in Italy. Papa had explained that they would travel along the western Mediterranean side, down to Rome, all the way north, inland, to the Baltic Sea side of Venice.


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It seemed like a lot of miles to travel—an entire country during one winter break—but Mimi had reassured her that traveling the country was like visiting one entire state in America. “Italy is 116,300 square miles, just slightly larger than the state of Arizona,” Christina remembered Mimi saying. We went to Arizona one spring break, so I guess we can cover all of Italy in one winter break, Christina thought to herself, looking out the window as the runway got closer and closer and the ground below came clearly into focus. Mimi said that they would see many of the important sites in Italy. They might also have time to go shopping in Milan, another major Italian city, known for fashion and culture. Mimi said the best shops were on the main street, and that splendid shopping could also be found in the popular, enormous glass-domed shopping plazas of the Galleria Vittorio. It would be better than having to drive forever to go shopping at a plain old mall—if we could only find a way to leave Grant with Papa, Christina thought to herself. Maybe they could go to the Gothic Duomo, Milan’s cathedral of many spires or to the Parco Nazionale, the National Park of Engravings,


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home to almost 1,000 figures and prehistoric engravings from the Ice Age. “Dinosaur-loving Grant would love that! Yes, that would keep both Grant and Papa busy for an entire day of shopping!” Christina smiled as she talked softly to herself. “Whoa! Look at all the trees!” Grant shouted, bringing Christina back to reality. “There are acres and acres of them!” “Those are vineyards,” Papa said, pointing to rows and rows of brown vines just below and to the side of their airport destination. “They are dormant now, but come next fall, they’ll be harvested and the grapes turned into wine. Fall is the season of the vendemmia, the grape harvest. Look over there. Those are olive trees. They grow everywhere in Italy.” “I didn’t know olives grew on trees!” Grant said. “If those are the green olive trees, where are the black olive trees?” Papa chuckled. “All olive trees produce green olives; the black ones just stay on the trees longer before being harvested,” he explained. Mimi laughed, too. “At the rate you eat olives, Grant, you would never be able to wait for them to ripen to black—you’d have a tummy ache, and the trees would be bare!”


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Grant smiled at Mimi. “Do you remember my special way to eat olives, Mimi?” he said. “How could I forget?” Mimi laughed. “One for each finger, then pop, pop, pop in your mouth!” Mimi tousled Grant’s blonde hair and looked around their seats. She was getting anxious to corral the kids and their belongings as the captain’s voice came over the radio, “Prepare for our final descent into Pisa International Airport.” “We’ll get our luggage right when we arrive, kids,” Mimi reminded Christina and Grant. “We have to hurry a bit so we can catch the next train to Cinque Terre, where we are going to stay with your Papa’s old friend.” Cinque Terre, translated as the five terraces or the five lands, is an especially hilly part of the Italian peninsula. It is very beautiful as it follows the Italian Riviera and partly jets out into the water. The southern stretch of this hill country has many fruit orchards and vineyards as well. “We’ll want to get our seats up front in the forward train car, so when the train stops along the way, we won’t be sitting in the train car stopped in the dark tunnels!” Mimi explained. “I want to be in the train stopped in the


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tunnel,” Grant exclaimed. “It would be really dark and spooky and make a great hiding place.” “True,” Mimi said, “but all of the beautiful Italian scenery would be blocked from our view. We might be sitting in the dark tunnel for quite a long time. I’d much rather be looking at this gorgeous country from the front car.” “Me, too,” Christina said, “I’m not here to play silly games like hide and seek. I want to see everything I can.” Christina and Grant gathered their books and toys and stuffed them in their backpacks. When Christina bent under the seat in front of her to pick up one of Grant’s T-Rex figurines, she accidentally pulled up a section of newspaper that was on the floor. The Italian words caught her eye. She elbowed Grant. “Look, Grant, can you figure out any of these words?” Christina asked. “Look, I see ciao, I know that means goodbye.” “Look for pictures. Pizza…Pizza...do you see pizza?” Grant was being silly, sticking out his tongue to lick his lips, and rubbing his belly. “No! But, look, everything’s in Italian, except for this one big box,” Christina said as she pointed to an advertisement outlined with a bold black rectangle.


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Someone had circled the ad with a red marker. There was a big picture of a sundial with an eerie shadow cast across it.

WANTED: IMMEDIATELY Must have traveling papers, able to work undercover, and able to carry a big sword. Meet by the Colosseum when the first shadow is cast upon the sundial. SAG. “Hmmm, strange,” Christina said. “A sword? Who carries a sword these days? Sounds dangerous. It kind of gives me the creeps.” Christina leaned towards Grant to show him the paper as he pressed his nose against the glass, fogging up the window of the airplane. “I wonder why this is the only thing in English in the whole newspaper, and where is the sundial they are talking about?” Christina said out loud, hoping Grant might offer a solution she didn’t think of first. “No clue,” Grant muttered while making funny faces in the window. “And what does SAG mean?” Christina asked.


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“Still no clue,� Grant said in a puzzled tone. Christina sat back and wondered quietly about the words in the newspaper ad. The landing gear screeched as it made contact with the runway. They were now officially in Italy!


Benvenuto, Welcome to Italy!

11

2 Benvenuto, Welcome to Italy! “Buon Giorno, welcome to Italy,” the voice on the loud speaker said. “The local time is sette ora, 7 a.m.” No wonder I feel tired, Christina thought. At home it would only be 1:00 in the morning, and I would still be sleeping! She yawned a long, lazy yawn as Grant stirred groggily from his seat beside her. Everyone gathered up their belongings as Mimi encouraged them to move along quickly. Standing up, with her backpack slung on her right shoulder and her sweatshirt over her left arm, Christina was still wondering about the newspaper article. Where did it come from? Then, she elbowed Grant as a man in a black


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trench coat and a felt fedora abruptly stood up from the seat in front of hers and pushed his way off the plane in a big hurry. “He sure looked like he was in a big hurry,” Christina whispered to Grant. “I wonder if that newspaper belonged to him.” Mimi hustled everyone off the plane and to the taxi stand, where they were quickly whisked away to the Pisa train station. Papa paid the driver in euros and directed everyone to the train platform while he stopped to verify the train schedule. Surprisingly, the train was on time today—not a usual thing with Italian trains. Grant and Christina settled into their seats on the crowded train. “This is going to be the best part of the trip,” said Grant, his eyes gleaming with anticipation. As the train pulled out of the station, Christina saw the man in the black trench coat and the felt hat again. Or was that the same man? Soon there was another man wearing a black trench coat and a felt fedora. Goose bumps spread across Christina’s arms as she wondered about the words in the newspaper again, and now saw two men in black trench coats! “That’s interesting…,” whispered Christina to herself.


Benvenuto, Welcome to Italy!

13

“Did you say something, Christina?” Grant asked. “Never mind,” said Christina. The train ride to Cinque Terre was amazing and soon distracted Christina from the men in the black trench coats. Tucked in the countryside were clusters of villas with red tile roofs. The landscape was speckled with clusters of olive trees and dormant grape vineyards, and despite the cold, lots and lots of green trees. The sky was a bright and vivid blue and even Grant was keenly aware of the beauty of the Italian countryside. From the window, he could see a nonno, like Papa, riding his bike on a dirt road with a long, fresh loaf of bread in his basket. Grant also spied some sheep in a cluster off the side of the road. “Christina, look at that funny building,” Grant said, tugging at his sister’s shirt. It was the Villa of a Hundred Chimneys. “There are a zillion stacks coming out of that rooftop!” “They look like chimneys,” said Christina. “Wow! I wish I lived in that house at Christmas,” Grant said, “then, maybe Santa would come down each one of those chimneys and I’d get 100 presents!” “You might get more than you bargained for,” Christina said. “La Befana, a kindly old witch,


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visits all the kids in Italy at Christmas. I’m not sure she uses the chimneys.” Just then the train shifted a bit and in no time, they were hugging the shore of the Ligurian coast. The children marveled at the colorful houses wedged into the cliffs, trying to imagine how they ever got there! “I bet it took 100 men and 100 donkeys to move those bricks up there!” Grant exclaimed. “I wonder how long it took? I bet I could have done it in about a week,” he said as he pumped up his arms and showed off his scrawny seven-year-old muscles. Everyone roared with laughter. “You keep working on those biceps,” Papa smiled. “You’ll get there!” “The view is breathtaking,” said Mimi. “It’s hard to imagine that this could make a good setting for my next mystery book.” “Speaking of mystery, I wish I had The Mystery Girl with me right about now,” said Papa. Grant and Christina knew they’d be flying low over the waters of the Portovenere and the Riviera Di Levante if they had flown on Papa’s Mystery Girl. Maybe they could convince Papa to take them sailing while they were here. Both Christina and Grant would love to get a chance to feel the wind whip across their face as the breeze came off the beautiful blue water, even if they had to wear a trench coat to keep warm.


Making New Friends

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3 Making New Friends Soon wind and water were whipping across Grant’s face, but it wasn’t from sailing. Papa’s friends had a very old villa on acres and acres of land in the countryside, just perfect for a Saint Bernard to romp around. Rigatoni was a fluffy, black and brown Saint Bernard who nearly towered over Grant and greeted him by lapping at his face with his huge, wet, prickly tongue. Grant giggled and grinned a big, wide grin as he tickled and patted the friendly dog in return. A boy with dark, tousled hair and olive skin smiled at Grant and the dog. “Rigatoni, he’s not your supper, he’s our guest. Bon Giorno,” said


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Luigi, 14, as he greeted his house guests. “I am so sorry about the dog,” said a lovely female voice. Christina looked up to see Luigi’s younger sister. “I am Maria Francesca—my friends call me Francesca,” she smiled. “Rigatoni loves when we have company. He knows there will be more leftovers at supper, so he is getting chummy with you now, hoping for your scraps, eh?” Christina immediately liked Maria Francesca. She had high cheekbones, long, straight hair, and golden, olive skin. Tall and thin, she looked more like a model than a soccer player. And, she didn’t look like Christina’s twelve year-old friends from the states; she was older looking and very sophisticated. “Come, I will show you to your rooms,” Luigi said. Wonderful smells already filled the villa. Something must be simmering for supper already, thought Christina. The house was very different from home in the United States. There were no screens on the windows, the windows were open, and you could feel the chill of the day run through the cement house with tile floors and throw rugs. It was a good thing the sun was bright and added warmth, Christina thought. Maria Francesca stopped at her room along


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the way. There was a wooden poster bed with a beautiful cross over the headboard, and a wood dresser with two photos in frames. “That’s my class,” Maria Francesca said. “In September, we were honored to go to Marostica, near Vicenza, to see the annual chess game. It was very funny to see all the men and ladies dressed as chess pieces and to play the game at night. It was very beautiful.” “The other photograph is of my Mama and Papa,” Maria Francesca continued. “They enter the Neapolitan Song Contest in Naples every year to celebrate their marriage. My Papa, he plays the mandolin, and Mama, she plays the castanets. They do not win, but they try. Maybe tonight, they will play for us at supper.” Christina wondered if they wore special costumes. The smell of what was soon to be dinner was floating through the air and reminded Christina that the day was still early and that it was not even lunch time yet. Her stomach had not yet settled on the new time zone. “Children,” Mimi called, “Isabella and I are going to zip up to the market before supper. You get settled and feel free to explore the grounds with Francesca and Luigi.” Grant followed Luigi down the hall, but soon


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dropped his bags and ran straight for the row of gleaming trophies in Luigi’s room. “Wow! These are cool,” Grant exclaimed. “You must be really good! Do you get all the goals?” “I do play fairly well,” Luigi said modestly, referring to his soccer trophies. “But, it is my uncle who is the star. He played in the World Cup when it was held in Italy in 1990.” Grant ran to the window as he heard Mimi squeal. She and Isabella were turning out of the grassy drive in the family’s red Ferrari, off to the market. Grant was reminded of Mimi’s red convertible back home. Mario called for everyone to come to the kitchen for some fresh minestrone vegetable and orecchiette pasta soup. “Or-whati?” asked Grant. “Or-keeti,” said Luigi. It means little ears.” Grant looked skeptically at the clam shell shaped pasta, trying to figure out how the small round pasta could get a name like that. “Try some bread with it, too,” Luigi said.

The kids gobbled up their soup. Grant and Christina then dove into the basket of fresh, soft bread chunks. Grant proceeded to sop up the minestrone broth with his chunk of tasty bread. “Tastes awesome,” he mumbled with his mouth full.


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“That should hold us until supper,” Francesca said. “You will want to save room for the big meal Mama has planned specially for you. Often we eat supper now, in the middle of the day to you, but she has planned a celebration for your trip here, so we will wait until dark.” Papa and his friend, Mario, were headed outside. “Come, join us everyone,” Mario said. The group, including Rigatoni, headed outside across the field behind the house and down to an old, forgotten barn. Mario peeled open the flimsy doors and revealed a shiny blue single-engine airplane with a broad grin and a robust wave of his arms. “This, this is my amore.” “What is he saying?” Grant whispered to Christina. “Oh, he means that the plane is his ‘love,’” she replied. “You know, just like Papa and The Mystery Girl.” Papa had a big smile on his face, too. He knew just how Mario felt. The two men explored the aircraft while the kids bounded out, being chased by Rigatoni. “Francesca,” Christina said, coming to a stop and dropping to the grass, “You speak English so well. Do most people in Italy speak it so well?” “Si, well, the younger people do,” Francesca


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replied. “We are required to learn many languages in school. But, the Nona’s, well, they are old and more stubborn,” she explained. “Well, I was just wondering,” Christina said, “because I saw something very strange in a newspaper I found on the plane.” Intrigued, Luigi and Francesca moved closer as Christina and Grant took turns remembering the words in the ad. “…and, then, there were two men in black trench coats at the train station,” Christina concluded. “That is very strange,” Luigi said. “SAG. What is this SAG? Francesca, do you ever hear this with your friends?” But Francesca shook her head no and seemed very puzzled. She shivered in the chilly air. “We should go in,” she suggested. “It is getting colder now that the sun is setting.” Inside the house, Mimi and Isabella were bringing out steaming plates of food. Grant didn’t see any pizza, to his disappointment, but everything smelled so good, he couldn’t wait to eat. “Here, try this,” Luigi said as he passed a large platter of fresh mozzarella, chunks of salami meat, lots of olives and marinated vegetables. “Olives! Yummy!” exclaimed Grant. “We have antipasto platter at every meal,” Luigi said of the colorful plate of appetizers.


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Smells of fried calamari, or squid, made Christina wrinkle up her nose as Luigi and Francesca dove in. There were porcelain bowls full of Risotto alla Romana. It looked like just like rice. Christina thought that might be a safe choice—little did she know it had liver and sweetbreads in it. “So, what do you think of the sweetbreads?” Francesca asked. “I thought American children did not like the livers.” “Sweetbreads?” Grant asked, wondering why she was talking about liver. “Isn’t that like cinnamon rolls? I don’t see any cinnamon rolls.” “Cinnamon rolls?” Francesca asked with a quizzical look. “You must mean like panettone? No, sweetbreads, like liver—it’s a meat.” Isabella and Mario laughed as Christina and Grant scrunched up their faces in distaste, and put down their forks. “It’s not very sweet,” Isabella said. “But, it is very tasty,” Mario added. “I think this time, Grant may prefer to eat his spinach,” said Mimi, as she passed the Spinaci alla Piemontese, made with spinach, anchovies, and croutons. The Ossobuco, veal in tomato and wine sauce, was Papa’s favorite. “This is delicious, Isabella,” he exclaimed. “I wish you could cook for me


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every night!” Then Papa looked at Mimi and gave her a little wink. Finally, Grant spied the spaghetti. It had green stuff in it, since it was made with a pesto sauce made of pine nuts and basil, but at least there was no sign of liver! Everyone was laughing and sharing stories. The sky grew darker and darker, the candles were lit, and soon the music started. Mario pulled out his mandolin and Francesca ran to get the castanets for Isabella as she placed a Torta di Ricotta on the table. This dish was a cheesecake filled with ricotta cheese and marsala wine. Mimi set down a platter of gorgonzola, taleggio, and fontina cheeses, and purple grapes and red pears, right behind the torte. The cappuccino and Italian sodas were already set up on the side table for dessert. Grant and Luigi were helping themselves to an Italian soda made with vanilla and anise (licoriceflavored) syrups. Mario began to play and soon everyone was clapping. Then Francesca jumped up and grabbed Grant’s arm. “Dance with me,” she said. “This is the tarantella. Kick up your feet.” “Where’s the tarantula?” Grant squealed as


Making New Friends

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he pulled away from Francesca. Everyone laughed. “The tarantella—it is a special Italian folk dance we do at celebrations,” she explained with a giggle. “A long time ago, victims of the tarantula spider’s bite thought they could cure themselves through crazy dancing, by sweating out the poison. Now we just dance like we are crazy. It is fun, no?” “Grant always dances a little crazy,” teased Christina. Mario and Papa raised their glasses to Mimi and Isabella. “Salute! Cento Anjas!” Isabella and Mario called out jointly in celebration. The adults toasted the fun together. “What did he say?” asked Grant. “Cento Anjas,” Luigi answered. “It means 100 years—100 years of good health.” The kids could not have known they would soon need good health—and good luck!

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The Mystery of the Roman Colosseum – Rome, Italy  

It's off to Italy for Mimi and Papa and their two grandchildren, Christina, 10 and Grant, 7. Mimi, a children's book writer, is writing a ne...

The Mystery of the Roman Colosseum – Rome, Italy  

It's off to Italy for Mimi and Papa and their two grandchildren, Christina, 10 and Grant, 7. Mimi, a children's book writer, is writing a ne...

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