Feb 28, 2009

Carta Vince Militello Piange (Carta Wins Militello Cries)

The proof is in the video. Found right on the radio's website. Follow this link.

Just in case you don't speak italian, here is a summary of the video which of course somewhat kills its comic nature:

Photo credit: C. Mangiarotti @ Gossip.it

Militello in trash can: He explains that he lost a bet with Radio 101 and he is there to fulfill his part of the bargain. (He was to be in his boxers but it much more appropriate that is covered in toilet paper or "carta" in italian and guess what...the name of the San Remo winner).

He carries a poster of Marco Carta on his back through a crowd of jeering people (dare I say much like Jesus carrying a cross on his back)

...passes the "down with Militello" signs that in essense rub his nose in his supposed humility and passes his traitorous friend (the man in black) who all too happily passed on Militello's words and thus was born this video.

...escapes the crowd but is startled by the very poster he had been carrying on his back, ominously waiting for him inside the gate. His final act of penance is to write the words "Carta ti amo" (Carta I love you).

He begs to not have to right that, trying to tone it down with other nice words, but is compelled to write it as dictated. He begins begrudingly "Carta I ha (then crosses it out) love you" before crumbling to the ground under the sheer pressure of the effort.

It's a great thing to have a sense of humor.

Feb 26, 2009

The bet is fulfilled, Cristiano Militello is true to his word

Cristiano Militello, of Stricia la Notizia fame said he would strut in the street in his boxers if Marco Carta won at the San Remo 2009 Festival.

And guess who won.

So I've looked, however fruitlessly, for a video that might have been posted to document this little event. Anyone has a lead?

Feb 25, 2009

Carnivale Borgosesia, "Beppe Grillo" Float Wins

Borgosesia Carnivale made it into the news with their winning float. Here are scenes from Sunday.

Coming into the square

He was so kind to pose for a photo...and right after asked if I would buy a raffle ticket....Nothing is ever for free (sigh).

One of the floats that passed in the parade. We arrived late so most of them had already been parked in the square. Do you see the tractor?

One of the master of ceremonies. I love the cap.

More costumes just my style. Maybe I'll wear one next year.

What carnival would be complete without food and sweets! Naturally we were drawn to these delicious wonders. And yes, I devoured one of those giants on the right, brushing the sugar off my upper lip and cheeks with every bite.

If you didn't see the tractor for the first photo, it's obvious here. This is the Gomorrah float...

...with a close up. Handsome fellow, isn't he?

I loved these guys. Reminds me of Lost in Space.

This baby however, got the winning votes and made it in the La Stampa newspaper.

And this is our friend at the bar Gran Bretagne, completely transformed into the lovely Snow White.


Feb 23, 2009

Ristorante Lo Scoglio, Prato Sesia Novara

A Prato Sesia Restaurant known for its seafood dishes. NOT to be confused with Lo Scoglio on the Amalfi Coast.

This is a very casual restaurant and very reasonably priced so I guess for that very reason it is not surprising to find it filled with teenagers, especially on the weekend. It is definitely family oriented and tends to be on the noisy side. We went here once when it was the end of the school year. The only other place where I saw so many teens at once was...at school.

There is plenty of parking on the premises, but I've seen even that space eaten up with cars (on Valentine's Day. So much for a crisis...five restaurants were full, many for all the usual dinner shifts.)

As with a casual restaurant, the service is also casual. Seafood doesn't appeal to me as much as a nice piece of meat and I don't usually order the pasta which is one of the "prima piatti", fish and meat falling into the "secondi piatti". Without thinking, we gave our order for two appetizers, a pasta dish for A and a seafood mix for me. Both were quick and we were hungry? Without question, the waitress, (actually the owner's wife, scribbled the order on her pad and deposited it with the cook.

Sharing is very romantic...
Hungry or not, A could not finish his seafood appetizer. It tasted old. I had cuts of cold meat and he ate off some of mine.

Then surprise...A's dish arrived after a short wait. I encouraged him to eat and he slowly munched away expecting mine to arrive soon so we'd eat together. I stole a few bits of what my starving tummy considered the "best pasta ever"....and waited.

Tradition rules
It only dawned upon us as they came to take the empty plate away, that they were following the tradition of the meal and it was probably only then....at 10:45pm (!!!)...that they were tossing my little seafood mix into the fryer. At every restaurant, when we order a first and a second dish, it is understood that we want to eat it at the same time and the meal arrives together. Not here....

And who, on a special evening would not want to eat their meal at the same time?

The end
There are times when other emotions overtake even the sensation of hunger - disbelief, disappointment and fatigue set in all at once. With eyes suddenly heavy and threatening to flap permanently shut, I looked at A and said I'd rather head home.

I'd say fortunately, my food found its way to the check out in a take out dish (they saw us leaving) but unfortunately, fried seafood is best eaten hot off the cooker.

Maybe they are really fantastic at making pizza? We won't know because we aren't planning on going back.

Ristorante Lo Scoglio
Viale Don Minzoni 1, 28077 PRATO SESIA (NO)
Tel. 0163850581

San Remo Festival 2009 Winners

The winners from Saturday night's Festival Finale are as follows:
  • Marco Carta takes the prize with his new song "La Forza Mia" - My Strength. Listen here.
  • Povia came in second with "Luca era Gay" - Luca was Gay. Listen here.
  • Sal da Vinci followed up in third with "Non Riesco a Farti Innamorare" - I Can't Make you Fall in Love. Listen here.
Winner of the "new arrivals"
  • Arisa with "Sincerita'". Listen here.

Why is all this so fascinating to me?

I love music and the performances with the live orchestra (even though I was watching TV) brought back memories of San Francisco.

And mostly because I heard that a radio personality had made a bet on the outcome of the Festival and I wanted to know the result.

The bet for this radio personality (Militello) involves standing out on an early February morning in front of the the Milan radio station for the transmission of his show if a certain singer managed to win.

Dress code? Only his boxer shorts.

Is he a man of his word? Because if he is, he has to be freezing his a** off this morning.

I hope someone takes a video but my guess is this dog was all bark and no bite.

Feb 21, 2009

San Remo Festival 2009

San Remo Festival is a gathering of artists presenting their new music to the world. It's not just Italians singing, as I listened to a duo from the States sing their hearts out.

Tonight is a big night here in Italy and as well in the States. It's Oscar night! There is definitely a cross over that is more evident to me this year, perhaps because I am in Italy where they are eagerly covering the Italian infiltration in Hollywood.

San Remo has run for several nights with newcomers to the scene as well as the popular and already well-loved such as Patty Bravo (who incidentally is singing as I write). The public is invited to text or call in their vote for their favorite(s) of the evening. Sound familiar?

A number of performers with the highest votes return to sing another night BUT they sing the same song they are introducing to the public. For example, Pavio's composition of "Luca era Gay" (Luca was Gay), sung a couple nights ago, won enough votes for him to return to tonight's finale and sing it once again. But this time it goes up against the other favorites.

I've been told that the festival has lost its following over the years. Right at that moment a man was bellowing out a particularly horrible piece of noise and I thought "well, no wonder". I can't say that anymore...the riff raff has been sorted out and the music tonight is lovely to listen to and entertaining.

This year, in an attempt to revive the festival's appeal, they have a popular comic and host, Paolo Bonolis, as the master of ceremonies. If his lighthearted humor and stand-up comedy doesn't do the trick, the guests should help...particularly when Hugh Heffner and his four bunnies were invited. I am sure there was some disappointment that there were no tall ears and white bunny tails to be seen. However, since nudity is a part of the Playmate life, the appearance of a woman clad in a cat suit was no surprise. Oh wait....that's not a catsuit...it's body paint!!!! Right after she approaced Hugh from the audience, two burly security guards quickly escorted her out.

Kevin Spacey made an appearance and sang "My Way" which was so American I wanted to go home. An American father and son (I came in late and didn't get their names), were entered but despite their joyful and loving performance, did not make it to the final. Perhaps the fact the Italian public did not understand the words might have had something to do with it.

Caroline Rice from Weeds fame also made a comic appearance. I always think my Italian has drastically improved when someone speaks in English....before I realize they spoke in English.

Arisa, a strange looking young woman, who resembled an animation come alive, won the new artist category. I want to find something nice to say about her because she seemed so timid and this must have been a great moment for her. Only her eyes, lined in black and framed by thick black frames, moved side to side. Her lips stood out in bright reddish orange and her body never swayed, never moved. Her song? Sincerita' or as you might guess "Sincerity".

There will be three winners for the festival....but only after they eat up the four plus hours allotted. I'll have to learn about it in the morning.

Feb 20, 2009

Istituto Clinico Mater Domini, Castellanza Varese Italy

An Italian hospital run in Kaiser fashion. You pay a small fee for the service that you need (22 euro) but I am not sure if different services cost more or less.

Italians standing politely in line?

I believe some places in Italy are more notorious than others for not waiting in line. In order to diffuse a push-come-to-shove situation, conveniently situated near the entrance is a little machine that feeds you a number. Post offices also follow this system, as does the meat and cheese section of supermarkets.

Also in Post Office or bank style there were various kiosks or windows with an employee waiting to help the next number.

Ticket duly taken, I settled into a chair in the waiting area to wait for our number to pop up on the digital screen. However, I believe old habits die hard...even though there was nothing to be done until your number was called, 90% of the patients chose to hover near the entrance to the kiosks, as if they were at the starting line for a race. Even A moved toward the "beginning" of the line so he could wait for his number.

How to not get lost

A flash-back to an experience I had at Kaiser in California. I checked in at the appropriate registration and was given directions to the office where I would have my visit. They went something like this, "Go down this hall and turn right. Exit through glass doors and go to the middle building. Follow the corridor and take the elevator to the first floor."

I got lost. The directions seemed straightforward, until I saw there are two buildings in the middle and there is suddenly doubt which one is yours. And was I supposed to turn right or left?

Well, perhaps they need this little addition to their layout:

Directions that can be quickly forgotten in the anxiety of being at a hospital for a visit, can be minimized to a mere color and which floor. We were green.

We also had to go down a floor. The green line turned into the elevator, or continued to the stairs. Naturally, we took the elevator. If you had any doubts if you were in the right place....

Even the elevator was in the color you needed.

On the way out, I saw this mural and had to take a photo. I could have been back in the States after all.


Feb 19, 2009

Getting the rusty wheels turning again

It's been a busy week and I again haven't taken time to write. I think there is a wall in my head that prevents thoughts from properly developing and that means nothing comes from my fingers.

I feel like one of those old fashioned cameras that take photos, but since you can't see anything yet, you have no idea of what those lens have seen. This will be my "dark room" where I'll get to develop the things I've seen with these "4 lenses" and go from there. The words that are underlined will be linked later when those thoughts mushroom into their own story.

  • The second week of carnival came and went. There were so many people in the square it was impossible to find a spot to park just to buy bread. I hope all those people bought a loaf or two.
  • A bright and sunny Sunday drew skiers from all over to the snow laden slopes here in the Alps and also at the other popular resorts in the north. By Sunday evening, at least 70 people (from Madonna di Campiglio resort) went home with a ticket for reckless skiing. Heavy drinking or taking drugs before descending were big no-no's, the later being blamed mostly on tourists "not knowing better" about the no-drug laws in Italy. Is that ever allowed anywhere? And there were the law-breakers who ignored the "Danger" signs and still took off on their own "off pista" adventures.
  • We were in Milan for a hospital visit for A. Just a little concern for his heart prompted a string of visits and exposed me to an interesting waiting room experience.
  • A is fine and wanted to use this good news as a reason for us to go to my least favorite restaurant, In Claudio...where they must be the only restaurant to serve this particular pasta that he adores. We went, of course. Fortunately, being a Tuesday, it was practically empty, so it came as no surprise that they seated us right next to everyone else. It's like when animals are being herded into one section of their pen to be fed.
  • The temperature, perhaps depressed about the way humans and Mother Nature are seemingly at odds, refuses to rise beyond 5 degrees C on most days. The sun is having his say today so there is hope for a warmer day.
  • I will be watching the mercury with interest as I want to go outside and move some logs that A chopped for next years wood pile. I decided this was a good way to get some exercise and it gives good time for our two dogs to romp at length. I've been planning to do this for two days now....
  • Because the weather is so haphazard these days, places like Calabria and Sicily in the south and even Sardegna, have been "blessed" with several feet of snow. Before that, the rain soaked soil gave up it's hold on one of the many Calabrian slopes and slid onto highways creating all kinds of chaos.
  • My little baby blue motorbike has been resuscitated and she has a huge smile that stretches across both wheels. I have all my leathers here now so you'd think I'd be ready for a ride even in these temps. I'm going to blame A for being the wimp...
  • Valentines...oh Valentines. Despite the crisis that makes its way to front pages of just about every newspaper in Italy (and perhaps everywhere) restaurants were filled to the brink. We know this because we were the idiots who didn't make a reservation for dinner, romantic or otherwise. Il Torre apologized profusely and as consolation, informed us that there was a table available at 9:30pm. Pepe was full, so was the Argentinian restaurant (I forget the name right now) La Trattoria sotto il Castello also was bursting at the seams...etc, etc. We visited 6 restaurants before ending up waiting at Lo Scoglio. They hung a carrot in front of our hungry noses saying "five minutes" at every 10. We were finally seated a little after 9:30pm and images of the beautiful Il Torre jumped to the forefront of my mind.
  • Perhaps this technology has already hit places like Rome and Milan, I don't know. But here in Borgosesia they are now advertising something similar to TIVO, where you can pause your movie to go pee, eat, have sex, whatever. It's part of the service SKY. It's at times like this, as a gadget loving person, that I really miss the States with all its advancements and conveniences. And then I remember, I gave it up because I wanted a simple life.

Feb 12, 2009

More New Laws in Italy? Let me count the ways....

Italy has laws for WHAT? There are some towns that want to prohibit some activities that are perfectly natural the world over.

The other day, the news on TV mentioned the many laws that are mushrooming in Italy since Berlusconi came back into power. They showed the article written by “The Independent World” that covered this phenomenon and I had to read it for myself because I wasn’t sure I heard right. Tourists need to beware in case they unknowingly do something that merits a fine, like letting their children build sandcastles on the beach.

Yes you read that right.

But what you can do on one beach, you can get fined on another; you just have to know which ones. So remember to check that out the next time you are planning your vacation. Do guidebooks mention this tidbit now, I wonder?

Read the article here; it’s real, but nevertheless entertaining.

Don’t let a little law scare you away from making plans to visit this amazing and beautiful country. And, hey, if you DO get a ticket, surely it will only make your vacation all the more “memorable”.

And just like many laws…let me attach something unrelated at the end…

I haven’t been online lately…one thing after another. I appreciate that so many of you have kept coming to visit even though I’ve not kept up blogging.

A’s mom was over for a visit, not just a social visit, but because A’s brother decided to smoke a hole in his lung and was in the hospital. She was here for a week and a half but before that, I was in California for a long visit.

In Italy, I frequently run across people who do not have computers at home, far less internet service. They don’t miss it or feel the need to come into the 21st century and yes, I am horrified, lost without this service. My family falls in the minority in the States, where they still have “DIAL-UP” service in their home. Again, I am horrified. If I thought I went back in time when I came to Italy, I feel the same when I go my family for a visit.

Feb 9, 2009

Carnivale in Borgosesia, (VC) Italy

The most well-known Carnivale event takes place in Venice this month. However, the rest of Italy also celebrates this fun time with their own parties. Here in Borgosesia, the weekend has been reserved for masks and costumes...not just one weekend, but three. This past weekend bands and groups decked out in their matching costumes marched through the streets toward the square where a couple spontaneously sprang into dance. The music? American 60's band music and the jitterbug.

Next weekend, the 13th and 14th bring on another round of costumes...and then again on the 22nd. I particularly enjoyed the costume of the owner of the Gran Bretagne bar...who was dressed very credibly as Snow White. Even the bar was "dressed" with a huge white bow tie a decoration that I also noticed in many other bars.

Interestingly, most people wear the same type of costume in black and white, with top hat, tailcoat, bow tie and cape. This traditional costume goes way back to the early 18th century where the last evening of Carnival is celebrated with a funeral procession. These days, instead of ending up at a cemetery, these somberly but smartly clad folk end up patronizing every bar that is open along the procession.

That easily explains the bow tie'd bars.

Follow this link for information on the interesting events that take place during the week of February 13 through February 24, 2009. One day I will make it to Venice to experience their Carnivale.

Feb 3, 2009

Lucca Italy bans non-Italian Food

There are usually two sides to a story. One side says "we are not going to have new ethnic restaurants within the walls of Lucca" and of course the other side claims that there is discrimination to ethnic groups or immigrants. I am sure there is more to the issue than just about food.

I have to admit my first reaction was that it just wasn't right to take away equal opportunity not to mention the variety. I happen to like variety when it comes to choices of food.

Then I thought of the reason why I wanted to vacation in Italy in the first place. It was to experience the old world, with narrow streets that suddenly opened onto a piazza and chairs set out in the sun outside a cafe serving espresso. It was to get a feel for style of life gone by, that hadn't changed with time. To be Italian for a short while, do Italian things, stumble over Italian words and eat Italian food. It was to be a sensory experience, seeing the beautiful countryside, walking streets filled with history, running fingers over intricately carved stonework, eating traditional foods, drinking lots of good wine and listening to musical gibberish.

I know that times change and we have a lot of outside influences, which is good for growth and expansion. It's part of how Michelangelo became as awesome as he was. But for tourists, people like me who want a taste of the Italian life it's a good thing to put limits. The limit is just within the old walled town itself as the rest of Lucca is still open for all kinds of eateries. Why not preserve something that has contributed to one of the main revenues of Italy's economy...tourism.

I think of San Francisco, a properly multicultural city. Chinatown was downtown, near the financial center. It has grown and grown and like a weed, has found another area to root. At the beginning of the avenues, from around 1st Avenue to the 6th, another Chinatown thrives.

From a tourist point of view, and even from one who likes to find some Chinese, Japanese and kebab here in Italy, I think there are times that limits are good.