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March 10, 2006

Go Franco Go!

With the Turin games behind us I thought I should blog about my own link to Olympic fame. The 1960 summer games were in Rome. My uncle Franco was on the rowing team from Italy for those games. He rowed on the 4 man coxless team (nice name :-))and they won a silver medal. This was a cinderella story given that fact that Italy should have never won a medal in the rowing events - at least that's what family folklore says. It was kind of like the Jamaican bobsled team, everyone made fun of them, but they actually won. The first time I met Franco was in 1974 when he came to the states (Poughkeepsie) to spend time with my grandmother Stella. Franco was my mothers cousin - I think that makes him my great uncle? Anyway, picture this guy, looks like Alberto Tomba, big strapping good looking guy, full of energy, bigger than life, doesn't speak a word of english - everybody loves Franco. Nana has all the cousins, aunts, uncles over for a cookout to meet Franco; Italian sausage, peppers, pasta, wine, beer, wine. Franco is there and he has on a tight red Adidas t-shirt, muscles popping out all over. The only thing I can say to the guy is "oh, Adidas" and smile and point to his t-shirt. He proceeds to take off his t-shirt and gives it to me - smiling from ear to ear the whole time. I'll never forget that. And, he wouldn't take it back! The guy was a local hero growing up in Treviso, just north of Venice. Everybody from Treviso knew and loved Franco. Later in life Franco moved to Abbidia which is next to Lecco on Lake Como to start a silk business. To this day, some of the finest silks in the world are made in Como. My mom talks about how when she visited him in Italy in the early 80's they drove from Lecco to Treviso to visit more family and as they walked down the streets, the towns people would recognize Franco and shout out his name and follow him around town signing songs.

Italy02_011_1 Franco was an amazing guy. His silk business took off, successful like everything he touched. He also started a paper/cardboard manufacturing business. The last time I saw Franco was during a visit I made to Como in 1995. Driving around in his red Lamborghini, going to the finest restaurants, drinking grappa and laughing, Franco was always laughing. He was always telling stories, he captivated people. Franco unexpectedly passed away in 2001from heart failure - we were all in mourning. A couple of years ago I was in Como and met up up with Marilena, his daughter, who now runs the family businesses. With the games in Turin this year I thought a lot about Franco, Marilena and my family ties. I'm smiling just thinking about them. If there is anyone out there that can point me to a picture of Franco at the Olympics in 1960 I would be forever grateful.

Also, if you love Italy as I do and have never been to the Lombardi region, Italy02_015_3 Lake Como or the countryside. It's the most beautiful place on earth, it's just a short drive from Milano and you're in a different world. And if you go, stay at the Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio which is right at the tip of the peninsula on lake Como. It's one of the finest hotels in the world. Here's a picture that I took a few years back that doesn't do it justice. Ciao. 

P.S. Marilena, drop me a line!

March 10, 2006 | Permalink


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Hey Baby - Let's pack our bags!

Posted by: christine | Mar 11, 2006 7:00:16 AM

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