Mar 31, 2009

Ecomuseum: The Wine Press of Agarla, Breia Piemonte

History, especially in Italy intrigues me. The Torchio of Agarla, an old wine or cider press in a small comune of Breia Piemonte, is an old building that houses two old presses and a grindstone. Because machines of this sort were used ages ago to make wine (that I love to drink), my curiosity was aroused and I went to visit.

Looking, touching and letting my imagination run a little wild, allows me to take a walk in time. In old castles, courtyards that now only feel the footsteps of tourists, become once again filled in my mind's eye with velvet, satin and lace clad damsels and gallant soldiers on fiesty steeds, ready to serve queen, country and the women of their heart.

Hmm, I digress.

The attraction of the Torchio di Agarla was to take a step back in time, to see and feel a little about how local Italians lived way back when. And to get a better understanding of what makes this region the way it is today.

One thing is for certain, wine-makers of today sure have it easy now.


Mar 28, 2009

Living as a Trinidadian (via California) in Italy

I've always been old. Growing up, I bonded with people who were more like grandparents. And those my age were few. People look at the islands mostly as a great vacation get-away or like Garry from The Barbados Blog, another way of life. I couldn't wait to get away.

As part of the World Blog Surf Day, read on about what Italy is to me and then travel to the next destination following the link at the end.

Age old Italy agrees with me; a living history book. What follows is part of what brought me to leave my footprints in this wonderful soil. Now, A is the reason I stay and these have become the icing.

I love the landscape

Whether it's the magnificent Alps, the Dolomites, or the raw dry wilderness of Calabria, there is a place for me, a 'sentiero' to walk. Valsesia bursts into life in the summer months and Lake Orta is a constant reminder of the picturesque charm that created fantasies in vacationer’s minds.

I love the lifestyle.

Family is an important element in Italian life and ties are surely bound at mealtime, breaking bread and sharing home-made wine. Smaller villages sometimes remain stubbornly untouched by a world insisting on moving faster and faster. It seems that it is possible for time to stand still, even for a moment.

I love village capped hills.

They are a testament of a time gone by and open for curious eyes to see. Narrow alleys and uneven staircases beg you to follow them…just to see where they go. Many times it leads to wooden doors, hanging on iron hinges in a creative surround fashioned by the hands of artisans dead for centuries.

I love the art and architecture.

It is a treat walking through secluded courtyards flanked by arched covered hallways that lead to stairwells that wind up to balconies that are covered ever so cleverly by giant half cupolas. Medieval Italy, The Renaissance, the Baroque period and onward have left their mark and it is breathtakingly magnificent. I can spend hours absorbed in the minute detail that has been spent on even the most obscure parts of a building. It is amazing.

And so is the color.

I love the language

Italian is romance in words. Sometimes the accent is more passionate, sometimes more seductive but it doesn’t matter what they say; it is music.

Olive oil, wine and … tomatoes.

Extra virgin Olive oil, something I paid for through the teeth in California, I can practically swim in here. Some of the sweetest tomatoes I’ve tasted came from Calabrian soil where I would eat it as it is meant to be....a fruit. If it were possible, Italy would sweat olive oil and bleed wine.

Building a new life

Each of us has an idea of how we want to build up our new life abroad. Every dream needs sustenance to materialize and grow. Follow Megan and learn of new ideas or resources that will help make life truly “la bella vita” at Career by Choice.


Mar 26, 2009

A taste of the wilder, earthy side of Italy

"Bev, BEV," A's voice is filled with excitement as he breezes in the front door.

"What is it?" I reply a little grumpily as I am distracted from creating another experiment called dinner and head toward the sound of cupboard doors and drawers being hastily slammed shut.

"I have to go." Odd words coming from a man who had just driven in the driveway only seconds before. The shotgun in his left hand and grin stretched across his face explained the rest.

Dinner would have to wait but thankfully, I had only put water to boil. "Buona fortuna," I called out as I headed back upstairs.

And so continued another cycle that I love about Italy; the wilder, more rustic, earthy life of the people here. That night two men lugged one large boar into the workroom and cleaned it.

The following night, dinner was again put on hold (already made, it chilled on the stove) as car after car rumbled into the courtyard to take a portion home with them. Before leaving, they filled our kitchen with their stories and laughter as the strong, red Negroamaro from Puglia made it's rounds.

In the quiet of the early morning, I hear the sound of water outside and the scratching of a broom against the tiled floor as the last of the night's activities is washed away. The tools and shed are put back into order and life hums on as before.

If life is just a series of cycles, then how wonderful when something you love comes around again. The spark in A's eyes will always be worth many a ruined dinner and more. And sharing has always been one of the best experiences in life.

Mar 25, 2009

Worth 1,000 Words: Trattoria Vittino Oropa Piemonte

Strategic Positions

Decor at the Trattoria “VITTINO” di Mario Marchesi
Oropa, Italy

Ahem, there is a good reason why Napoleon is standing like that, don't you think?

Mar 20, 2009

Italia on the Road with Motocard

With springtime comes motorbike weather and Italy is a fantastic place for bikes with all those narrow, windy backroads and sheep that block traffic.

I am itching to take a road trip. If my friends remember, I wanted to do this when I was in California with my Suzuki Savage...pack my tent, bag and other necessary stuff behind me and hit the road. Sadly, this never happened and the urge is still with me. My still very blue baby will have to do the trick.

This is the year to do it - I know it. And it helps to run across a handy card that takes a bite out of the expense. Motocard offers discounts on lodging, camping, new tires, ferries, restaurants and rentals.

RENTALS! Did you hear me Valerie? There is a list of places across Italy that rent bikes.

The card is usually 30euro for the period of one year, good for two people. It's offered for 10 euro for Facebook users.

If you travel on the wing like my friend Valerie, looking for certain hotels that offer Motocard discounts may not be appealing. But Ferry discounts certainly are (as I think a ride is Sicily is a must). And of course, there is Sardegna and lots of other little islands to play on.

Offers on insurance is also a plus and if you want a nudge in a certain direction, there are suggested itineraries in the map "Italia on the Road" that you will get along with your card.

You can sign-up online or at motorclub affiliates (but probably for Italians/Europeans). There is a list of affiliates on the Motocard website.

You have to love their motto: 4 wheels moves the body....2, the soul.
So true.

I'm waiting for you Valerie....come ride with us.

Friday Morning Observations

At seven this morning, my sleepy eyes gazed out on a grey, cloudy morning. Unbelievable after the warm, sunny day yesterday. I stared hard at the courtyard trying to absorb the fact that it really was wet. Perhaps A had watered the yard, and sprayed the entire courtyard? And in a crazy fit, watered down the road as well....

At 8:30am, I was sneaking around like a thief in my own living room. Outside, the repetitious song of a codirosso (if only I knew what the equivalent bird is in English) drew my attention away from my surfing, to my camera, halfway across the room and past two glass doors. On a sunny morning, the outside reflection gives me freedom to walk around AND enjoy the birds on the balcony. On a gloomy day, just blinking sets them a flutter.

At 9:30am and one good conversation and awful coffee later, I notice the sun is winning the struggle against the cottonwool clouds and there is promise of another fine day. Except it's easier to stay inside and clean when there is absolutlely no reason to be outside.

At 10:00, I still haven't budged from my computer but have one little gem that I discovered in my surfing. This post is chit chat for my friends...the next one for my friends who love MOTORBIKES!

Mar 19, 2009

Mummies in Italy: Torino, Milano, Bolzano

Photo from Museo Egizio

"Mummies Travel to Italy". One of the headlines yesterday at Martha's Italy Travel Blog caught my attention. I just had a fascinating read about how Pharaohs were prepared for burial and wrote an article about it.

These mummies will be 'vacationing' in Bolzano from March 10 to October 25 at the Otzi Museum, and buddying up with the Iceman. It's not exactly near where I live (I know, I know, distance is relative) but I am not planning on becoming a mummy groupie anytime soon.

When I visited Castello Sforzesco in Milan, I was so wrapped up in the architecture and the artistic detail around me that I failed to take the time to check out their museums. The underground level of the Ducal Courtyard contains an Archaeological Museum with an Egyptian section, complete with mummies.

And Museo Egizio, with one of the world's largest collections of all things Egyptian can be found in Torino, also here in Piemonte. (Photo from

Although this whole concept of mummifying bodies is fascinating, I am glad we don't practice this today (I don't think we do). And since I don't believe people have a consciousness after they die there is surely no sense in preserving the body.

Thinking of death is not an easy thing to do, but recently it has been on my mind a lot as a dear friend close to my age just lost her dad. This has made me think, and her insight, acute from her loss, has encouraged me to be more loving, forgiving and open to my family. All that there is in this life for us is here and now.

Mar 18, 2009

Worth 1,000 Words: White Storks in Piemonte, Italy?

Photo taken at Barengo, Italy

Does the increasing numbers of White Storks in Northern Italy mean
there will be an increase in little Italians?

With only 63 pairs at the last White Stork Census in the 2004-05 year, I feel pretty lucky to have seen one of these.


Mar 17, 2009

What's to see in Menton France? Basilique St. Michel

The City of Art and History

To celebrate A's birthday, we went to Menton, a French town just over the Italian border. The plan had been to go to Ventimiglia, but since the exit was closed, it forced us over the border and into Menton where we chose to stay.

This is one of the benefits of NOT making reservations beforehand. Freedom!

Parking was not that easy to find and when we did grab a spot, we were a little out of town, but it so happened that we had stopped in front of a hotel. Rather than waste time looking for other lodging, we checked in.

Even standing half hidden behind its concrete guardians the Basilique St. Michel commands your attention.

No one needs to beat this carpet.

It's that mottled wall treatment, the rough stone, the warmth of the wood and the caress of the color that, for me, never grows old.

A tourist trap, but I was happily caught.


Mar 16, 2009

My Web Walk: About Venice and its Carnival

Venice is calling me. On a web walk, I came across two sites on the same subject. The Venice Carnival. I know it’s over for this year, but I am told, in order to have a place to stay in the area, especially smack dab in Venice, I need to reserve a year in advance…

…which means right about now.

When I read about Journeys and Adventures experience at the Venetian Masquerade – it made me reminisce about my visit to Venice a couple years back, and regret that I didn’t spend more time when I was there. So it makes sense to go again and experience this huge festival myself.

Earlier I commented on A View From Carmine Superior’s post Home and Hearth saying that I love long gowns, so having an excuse to wear an exquisite gown from a by-gone era would be truly living a fantasy. Naturally, I would not be going anywhere near roaring fires in human size hearths.

I found Victorian Times and her Etsy counterpart but seeing I am now over here, I can only dream of these gowns made in the States. I just might have to pull out the sewing machine and take a stab at it myself. (I can do it, I can do it).

I can’t forget the masks, as it’s very important if I am going to allow my alter ego some freedom. I like Carta Alta's New Baroque Oro mask as well as the mask shown above...the Sisi in red. (Photo from Carta Alta website.)

If you are going to do some living-room travel, take a walk on the wilder historical side…visit Venice and fall into a silk and satin world of Dangerous Beauty.

Mar 13, 2009

Road to Carcoforo (VC) Piemonte Italy

Winter hit hard this year, turning even the lower valleys into stretches of pure white. Imagine what it must be like in the mountains! A little trip and a few photos later show that while I may be enjoying springtime weather (hooray!) there are places that are still dressed in winter clothes.

We toodled along SS299 behind two very slow moving cars before we escaped at Balmuccia, taking the offshoot into the hills. Destination Carcoforo, at it's very end.

View Larger Map

Things that stick up and out from the surrounding area always catch my attention.

A better view of a rock climber's dream, The Rock of Boccioletto.

I almost missed the little village that was lost among the dramatic landscape, all the hues were so similar. I felt I was looking on a lost, ancient village.

Another village, taking its isolated life literally to the edge...

...all the way over there

And from where I took those photos, right at my feet, hiding below the road...

I'm lost and have no idea where I am because I didn't look at any signs along the road, my eyes drawn to other interesting places.

Carcoforo...(where a man stood at the parking lot and watched us for quite a while and made me nervous.) The place seemed deserted although people live here year-round.

Back on the 'ancient village theme" that looks like a snow lizard on the roof, who had the villagers for a winter meal.

Then the mysterious man approached us, asking if we had seen the notices along the road of avalanche danger. Park Ranger. We were not supposed to be there as the road was closed. Kindly get out.

On the way down, we searched for them...set on the side of the road, leaving the passage clear for anyone to drive by. Well done! Not one of them said "Closed".

We counted five avalanches that were now cleared from the road.

Snow heaven

Back to Rimasco where there is a great restaurant that serves wonderful seafood.


Mar 10, 2009

Cultural differences, American vs Italian kids

How true! A list of differences between American kids compared to Italian kids... I had to laugh because I think many if not all of these are true. What do you think?!!!

Thanks to my friend Wilma for sending this to me. The email had "kids" as the comparison but I think these traits continue for a lifetime. I for one am witness to the 3 days of food, the pruning, planting, the long 'lets hang together for hours' meals...heck...the entire foody thing.

Here's the American kids vs. Italian kids list:

: Move out when they're 18 with the full support of their parents.
: Move out when they're 28, having saved enough money for a house, and are two weeks away from getting married.....unless there's room in the basement for the newlyweds.

: When their Mom visits them, she brings a Bundt cake, and you sip coffee and chat.
: When their Mom visits them, she brings 3 days worth of food, begins to tidy up, dust, do the laundry, and rearrange the furniture.

: Their dads always call before they come over to visit them, and it's usually only on special occasions.
: Are not at all fazed when their dads show up, unannounced, on a Saturday morning at 8:00, and starts pruning the fruit trees. If there are no fruit trees, he'll plant some.

: Always pay retail, and look in the Yellow Pages when they need to have something done.
: Call their dad or uncle, and ask for another dad's or uncle's phone number to get it done.

: Will come over for cake and coffee, and get only cake and coffee. No more.
: Will come over for cake and coffee, and get antipasto, wine, a pasta dish, a choice of two meats, salad, bread, a cannoli, fruit, espresso, and a few after dinner drinks.

: Will greet you with 'Hello' or 'Hi'.
: Will give you a big hug, a kiss on your cheek, and a pat on your back.

: Call your parents Mr. and Mrs.
: Call your parents Mom and Dad.

: Have never seen you cry.
: Cry with you.

: Will eat at your dinner table and leave.
: Will spend hours there, talking, laughing, and just being together...

: Know few things about you.
: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.


: Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on soft mushy white bread.
: Eat Genoa Salami and Provolone sandwiches on crusty Italian bread (for breakfast).

: Will leave you behind if that's what the crowd is doing
: Will kick the whole crowds' ass who left you behind.


: Think that being Italian is cool.
: Know that being Italian is cool.