May 2, 2021

“The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward, like everybody else.”
~ Umberto Eco



There is a Los Angeles Italia Film Festival that annually showcases Italian films at a local theater. As with other events during the past couple of years, pandemic concerns and limitations pushed most of the festival online. Like other adjustments made in these times, changes such as these are often frustrating. In some cases, however, these shifts provide opportunities to enjoy events that one would otherwise have to miss.

That was the case for me and this year’s festival. In previous years I have often had to skip films I wanted to see because work or other commitments prevented me from getting to the theater at the specific time a film was being shown. This year, with most of the offerings available online, I was able to enjoy almost all of the films I was interested in.

In particular, the recent Oscar-nominated live action telling of the classic story by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio, a film an Italian friend called “a masterpiece”, was one of my must-sees. It didn’t disappoint. This version of Pinocchio, starring Roberto Benigni as Geppetto, is indeed a masterpiece. It is one of the most enchanting, visually stunning and heartbreakingly-beautiful films I have seen in years. It adheres to the story in the original 1883 book more closely than other versions and is therefore much too scary and emotionally intense for young children. However for older children and adults, I highly recommend it. It is available on most streaming platforms. Both Italian with English subtitles and English dubbed versions are available. Here is a trailer:



The young star of the film, Federico Ielapi (who, like Roberto Benigni, did his own English-language dubbing for the film), was supposed to visit Los Angeles at Oscar time last year, to support the release of the film in the United States. He looked forward to visiting the local amusement parks and other landmarks. This didn’t happen due to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, so he planned to make the trip in 2021. Unfortunately, while there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel in Los Angeles, the pandemic is far from ended around the world and travel is still interrupted. Like the character he played, young Federico is waiting to live out his dreams “in person”.

As more and more Americans and other citizens of the world become vaccinated and we begin to live and love more “in-personally”, both the metaphor of a puppet’s wish to become real and the surreal adventures on his journey to becoming a human boy feel personal.

The recent CDC guidelines on fully-vaccinated persons no longer needing to wear masks when outdoors (unless in crowded scenarios) or indoors when hanging out with other fully vaccinated people have been liberating for me, having reached my “FV Day” not long ago. It’s hard to fully express how uplifting, hopeful and liberating it feels to make this shift.

Recent new lockdowns announced in other countries, and especially the current crisis in India are reminders that COVID-19 has not evaporated. However, re-openings continuing and news of more and more folks being vaccinated and cases going down, at least locally, show that progress is being made.

Pinocchio having finally become a human boy did not mean he would never again make a mistake, quite the contrary, as humankind consistently proves its imperfect nature. But, by gaining patience, perseverance, compassion and humility during his “wooden years”, Pinocchio the boy was able to more richly experience, appreciate and share life with those around him.



That is my wish for us all, as we begin to move toward that light at the end of the tunnel, and to live and love “in-personally”.


Farro is a delicious cousin of wheat that’s full of fiber and high in protein and vitamins. It lends a wonderful texture and flavor to Farro Salad (Insalata di farro).

Farro Salad (Insalata di farro)
This salad is easy to make and, if you use quick-cooking farro (available at Trader Joe’s), the preparation time is even shorter.  Take this to a lunch with friends or on a picnic.  It makes a lovely vegetarian dinner or side dish when served warm, but it’s also delicious the next day.


About 1 & 3/4 cups uncooked farro
(Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro is just shy of this amount)

1 (15oz) can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
One clove of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped (about 2 rounded tablespoons)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped celery hearts (with tender leaves)
1/2 cup slivered, unsalted almonds
A pinch of crumbled dried rosemary


Cook farro in salted water according to package directions.  Drain of excess water (use a mesh strainer if you have one).  Stir garbanzo beans into farro while it’s still warm and fluff with a fork.  Season with a little bit of salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large salad bowl, add 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Make a few cuts in the end of the garlic clove and rub into salt all around bottom of bowl.  Add vinegar and shallot; let sit a few minutes.  Whisk in oil until blended, then discard garlic clove.  Season with pepper and more salt, if desired (Parmesan cheese is salty, so be conservative with your salt amount).

Add the cheese, celery, almonds and rosemary.  Add farro and garbanzo mixture.  Toss everything together well.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  You can store leftovers in the fridge; it will be delicious the next day, but make sure to bring salad to room temperature before serving.

Serves 6


One Response to “In-Personally”

  1. Astrid Kastenberg

    Gina, I was at my desk working when your post came in. I decided to read it right away and use it as a “conscious pause”. What a beautiful and fantastic analogy of the Pinocchio story with the Lead Actor and tying it back to our current state of the life, as a result of the pandemic. This post is a masterpiece and felt like a breath of fresh air! It’s amazing how far and fast, all things considered with the size of California, that we have come! Hallelujah! Thank you so much for always bringing such thoughtful and thought provoking messages with your posts. I’ve added the film to my que and look soooooo forward to watching it.
    XO, AK

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