La Festa Della Donna – The Italian Nonna

La Festa Della Donna – The Italian Nonna

Today, March 8, is La Festa Della Donna (International Women’s Day) across the globe. I have partnered up again this month with the #DolceVitaBloggers to contribute to the topic of ‘Inspirational Women’. The truth is, I have had this post about the Nonna written for awhile and I can’t think of a more perfect time to publish it.

Grandmothers in Italy, to me, seem like the mecca of all grandmothers. They are the one and only “nonna”. They are the people who seem have it together and the ones you can go to with all of your life problems. Simply put, I hope I can be one of those ladies someday.

I used to watch films growing up and see the cute Italian grandmother making a huge family meal, loving (maybe too much, with cheek grabbing included) on her grandchildren, and being a wise soul with all of the answers to things that our brains develop questions about (ex: How do you sew on a button? How do you mop a floor? Why do I have to be well fed?). From what I had imagined, a nonna lived a semplice e felice vita (simple and happy live) encouraged others around her to do the same, despite the odds and curveballs that life can throw at you.

Flash-forward to my later adult years and I have had the chance to observe the actual Italian nonna while also learning what others loved about theirs. They are quintessentially everything that I believed they were and I will never forget admiring those that I have met.

In Italia, Roberto and I had an impromptu visit to his next door neighbor. Walking up the steps to her home, the sun was shining and we were greeted by an old woman with a smile on her face. Inside, the home felt warm and there were photos of her daughter and family around the living room and entrance. We were taken to the kitchen, where she immediately put on a moka (read about this device here) and pulled out the homemade baked biscotti (cookies) from the local pasticceria. I immediately felt at home and at ease. I could see that her home was built upon love and this was a source of inspiration for me to write this blog. She was selfless and giving, regardless of whether or not we were family. She also was interested in listening and sharing stories of her own.

I was told from an Italian nonna that a grandmother is special because she gives twice her love to her grandchildren. She is the reliable and wise soul that grounds the family. The nonna never lets anything go to waste and can make a meal out of any type of food that would be considered “scraps”. Nothing will get thrown away, not even those empty Nutella jars! This mindset is derived from many of the nonnas in our current generation going through the World War. People had a new appreciation for food and therefore nothing went to waste.

Now, I have never had an actual Italian grandmother, because I am the farthest in genetics from being considered Italian (by nature I am German, Scottish, French, English and a few other things), but from what I have learned, my Guppy would end up in what I consider the “Italian Nonna” category, in the most unique and special way. I’m also pretty positive that she would enjoy making gnocchi and tiramisù as much as I do, since she really loved to cook (the way to the heart in Italy)!

Although she left Earth a few years ago, I can guarantee that all of Heaven has seen her wearing a Boston Red Sox or brightly colored parrot hat while listening to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Guppy was a fun, carefree, intelligent (yet sometimes stubborn), soul who shaped my life in so many ways. I can say that she is a big part of who I am as a person today.


I was fortunate to live with my Guppy for some time and enjoy what I called, “The Simple Life”. This simple life was relaxing, full of laughter, and most importantly full of fun. She would always say to me, “we might not have much money, but we know how to have a good time”. This was completely true and embodies that same mindset that I see with the Italian nonnas I have met. I still think and apply this to my own life today, especially living in a city that revolves around money and spending. She taught me how to fish, how to pitch a tent in the middle of the woods, how to knit and craft (note: my knitting career never took off because I still really lack those skills), and so much more. If it’s one thing I’ve realized, a nonna adds a certain zest to your life and teaches you those extra skills you need in life.

The nonna also cares for her family, all of them, regardless of size. She is resilient at putting on family meals all by herself for most, if not all, family dinners. Also, everything is homemade (biscotti, pasta, ravioli, the list goes on and on). There is something about the homemade factor that a nonna has. She never lets things go to waste and even if she says “this doesn’t taste great” it is usually one of the best things you could ever imagine eating at that moment. The nonna cooks with her heart and soul and that is very apparent. It’s also a well known fact that a nonna’s recipes are passed down from one generation to the next and somehow are “top secret recipes”. I’ve been lucky enough to still replicate my Guppy’s favorite pumpkin bread. However, there is a tiramisù recipe that I constantly try to perfect each time I give it a try, because the recipe comes from an Italian nonna. You would think that the recipe is so simple, but there have been 2-3 times that I have really butchered the end product (apologies). You always have to be sure that love is always the main ingredient for it to even come out slightly the same.

Nonnas are completely unique and I know my Guppy was fearless and resilient throughout her day to day life.  There are many unique qualities that you can take from being around a nonna. I know that it’s important to keep things simple and really enjoy the life that you have, because there is beauty in that. It’s important to accept the good and the bad and to view all circumstances in a positive light, because you can always find the silver lining.

In a speech that my nonna (Guppy) once wrote, it reads, “Children learn tenderness, gentleness and consideration of other human beings by observing the world around them. They learn these qualities by example.” Thanks, Guppy for being my greatest example. And to all of the other nonnas out there, thanks for being beautiful and wonderful in so many ways (note: your cooking NEVER goes unnoticed – even this pumpkin bread I made as one of my favorite nonna recipes). It is to all of the wonderful nonna’s out there that I dedicate my International Women’s Day post to, there is a lot to look up to!


Con un cappello dei Red Sox e un tiramisu (with a Red Sox hat and a tiramisù),







3 thoughts on “La Festa Della Donna – The Italian Nonna”

  • Oh, how beautifully written Heather…you WILL be a NONNA one day, and you will feed all the neighbors and sit people down and put a plate of homemade
    food in front of them, just like your American Guppy…that was a lovely tribute.

    Well done!

  • Aw this is lovely. I too wish I’d had an Italian Nonna, they seem to take care of you like no other. They are so wise! I too have been taught some recipes that come out well and others that are never the same! But the process of being taught is amazing and so caring. Thank you for sharing your story about Guppy as well. I love her quote about children learning tenderness by example. I think this is so true. Thank you for sharing a post with us again this month! xx

  • Oh my goodness Heather you made me cry a little. I love your nonna!!! I especially love that photo you included where she’s dancing. Thank you for this beautiful post. “She is resilient at putting on family meals all by herself for most, if not all, family dinners.” describes my own grandma perfectly. Sometimes I just can’t believe all the cooking she does and I can’t imagine doing it all myself one day! I actually sent your post to my mom and grandma to read as well. Grazie for being part of #DolceVitaBloggers,

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