Aug 20, 2009

Day trip to Serra San Bruno, Vibo Valentia

After yet another scorching day, and night, we decided that higher ground was the ticket and we headed for the hills. We've been to Serra San Bruno before, visiting the church there and reliving one of A's memories of a rather funny wedding ceremony that took place there.

S. San Bruno is also known for its mushrooms and we salivated thinking of porcini mushrooms on a plate in front of us. We went to Fondo dei Baroni, an agriturismo close to the center. Last year we enjoyed a meal there and thought it deserved another visit. We will not be going back as the meal was very disappointing this year.

I think my favorite moment today occurred when we went to Certosa, where the church is, and also the monastery of the same name as the town. Two little stores sit on the road just outside the church grounds. One that sells all types of food typical of the south...mushrooms, peppers, wines etc. and the other has different articles, including pottery and ceramics.

Two women were looking at the decorative plates and since prices were not marked, they asked A if he happened to know the price (as had his hands full with my pickings). They were hesitant about asking the owner and getting the "tourtist price" and were giggling like girls when they heard A break out in dialect to ask for the information. Thanks to incredible prices, the three of us were at the counter with our hands full and looking like we had found treasure.

Thanks to an incredibly slow connection which makes posting photos a royal pain in the a**, I'll share my finds another day.

Aug 15, 2009

National Holiday on August 15

August 15 is referred to as "ferragosto" where the nation seems to shut down and families get together flocking to the mountains. Did I get that right? Yes, they flock to the sea for the August vacation and then on this day, they usually all head for the hills. It's tradition.

Today, thinking that the multitudes would have disappeared into the green foliage, I walked down to the beach hoping to find soothing comfort in the lapping waves. The pounding music and equally pounding waves were not helpful. Apparently, in order to drum up business for any who lagged behind, the hotel/restaurant at the beach advertised a grand party during the day.

Customers packed the open dining area for lunch. I felt sorry for them. Having been poorly served there two times now I know many people will be waiting a long time for their meal.

I was tickled pink when I heard the DJ begin asking for a vote on the service from the restaurant when he was interrupted by his partner who tactfully changed the topic of the vote to "Let us know if you like what we are doing and want us to stay for the rest of the day by a clap of hands" After some applause, I didn't hear the other side of the vote...the one where we clap our hands if we wanted them to quit. Isn't that how a vote works?
How many English speaking drivers did Esso expect to find in Italy? Obviously enough to prompt this sign

Foreigners often make a hard "g" when speaking in English, which explains the absence of the much needed "n". The message is still clear but old proofreading habits die hard.

Aug 14, 2009

Bivongi and its Summer Festivals

This past week has flown by – it’s already Friday – and although we’ve been busy almost all the time, it seems as if the hours have been filled with nothing.

We’ve spent quite some time at Bivongi, an old historic town that lives its life cycle like a bulbous flower. It goes dormant in the winter months, slowly shows signs of life during the spring and bursts into the glorious color of life for summer and slowly fades away in the autumn.

These last few days in Bivongi, the Wild Boar Festival or “Sagra del Cinghiale” took place. Last night the town celebrated the Sagra del Vino with typical foods, local wine and performances of the old traditional dance, the Tarantella. Onlookers were welcome to spontaneously participate in the square and many did.

During dinner and the performance, the square was filled with out of town guests who came for the festival, but on any given summer night, the square is filled with towns people and vacation renters who come to sit in the metal chairs that skirt the square to drink, chat and watch.

My first encounter with the Italian evening ‘passeggiata’ was in 2006 in Termoli when I emerged slightly groggy from an afternoon sleep in search of food. The main street that led toward the hotel, and the one I had taken by car earlier that day, was blocked to traffic and literally packed with people casually walking up and down the street, looking in windows, looking at others looking in windows and all in their finery.

Calabria may be considered one of the poorest regions of Italy but that doesn’t stop these deeply traditional folk from continuing this Italian tradition and sometimes coming dressed to the nines. At least the women do. Instead of walking the length of a street, they walk the width of the square, back and forth until conversation runs dry, thirst has set in or perhaps more likely, their feet hurt. I’ve seen some beautifully shod feet, in good arch-killing three inch stilettos, put in the miles. (Photo taken at 10:30pm after the normal walking hours)

Where the square is filled with adults and children engaged in good conversation over a drink or two, the unlit doorways and dark alleys attract the myriad of teenagers that converge on Bivongi. From the lack of town gossip, I imagine they are good kids who just find pleasure in something secret. A dark alley in a big city would be the beginning of bad news.

My favorite festival at Bivongi is the Mercato della Badia which will be on August 17 and 18. The second day will end literally with a bang, with fireworks and lost animals. The already tiny streets will diminish even further as stalls are set up to entice the stream of visitors to buy their trinkets, local specialties and ceramics. I’ve already promised myself to purchase some lovely hand painted, southern style pottery for the kitchen since, as my good friends well know, I love to cook so much.


Aug 8, 2009

For Sale...Fruit, Vegetables and Sofas

In Monasterace, the sounds of a voice over a loudspeaker made me turn to see what was going on. When I lived in Trinidad I was used to political parties bombarding listeners with their propoganda blasted from loudspeakers perched atop their vans .

This, however, was not a political entreaty. A variety of sofas of various styles and colors were each covered in plastic and piled one on top the other on the back of a large truck. The loudspeakers on the cab shouted,

"Buy a three seat sofa for a bargain price of E50"

I've learned that "you get what you pay for" and I suppose in a month it would be again time to buy another sofa. And I suppose it would be better to not know where those sofas came from.

Aug 7, 2009

Caught up in Small Town Gossip

I'm sitting under the blue striped umbrella #22 trying to get into my summer read, The Angel's Game, when my attention is pulled away by a high pitched squeal. I look up to see a young bikini clad girl frozen in place, looking my way with eyes wide and mouth hanging open.

Since I've no idea who she is, logic makes me look behind me to see who might have the matching look. An attractive blond is standing one umbrella away and as I look, the blue bikini runs across the sand and launches herself into the arms of the blond. A family re-union.

As tradition goes, families return to the same beaches every summer, friendships form and everyone knows everyone else's business. It seems the blond knows just about everyone on the beach judging from the many air kisses that subsequently passed a number of cheeks.

But what is interesting to the rest of us on-lookers, is the young man who stands beside her. As a newcomer to the beach last year, I had heard stories about this blond who always came to spend each summer with her family, bringing a different boyfriend. Like Old Faithful, she did not disappoint and it remains to discover what the family thinks of this summer love.

I hope my book has better promise for riveting suspense.

Aug 4, 2009

Italy on Vacation - It's August!!!!

Last weekend saw evidence of all of Italy going on vacation...at the same time. Ribbons of multicolored traffic, standing still, lined many of the freeways and entrances to ports of call for those catching the ferries to the islands. Patience. What a way to begin a vacation!

We are leaving today for a month of blazing hot sunshine and seaside adventure in Calabria. (I started drinking litres of water on Saturday, trying to prepare my body for the heat.) With most of Italy already settled, hopefully traffic will not be too bad.

What's not to like about a country that takes a month off to relax?


Aug 3, 2009

Ice Delivered right to our Doorstep

Louise at A View from Carmine Superiore, a village that shares this northern mountainous space, predicted thunderstorms this weekend. And she was right. The curtains are in and the gazebo is again naked.

A storm with an amazing display of lightning, ear splitting thunder and lots of hail tore through the midnight hour on Saturday leaving susceptible plants in ruin. The ground was covered in white.

On Sunday morning, Zefferino, from the house below, called out as he walked past on his way to the mountain.

"You still have ice."

Which brought both A and I running to see what he was looking at. There at the gate was a carpet of white pellets, frozen together, and covering the step...a reminder of the crazy weather we have in the foothills.

Gazebo Transformed into an Outdoor Space

What a busy week! Remember the "experience" I had last Tuesday? This is where that material went.

This is the space before and after (leafy rose vines cover the fence and gazebo). Curtains close in the space and add some much needed color.

We had A's crew and their wives over on Friday for dinner.
And then I hung out reading and enjoying the billowing curtains on Saturday

Then changed it again for dinner with A

I prefer red wines, but this Vermentino from Tuscany is delicious

The flowers were cut from a buddleia (butterfly bush) along the side of the road. Its going to join the ranks of my garden plants just for the flowers. True to it's nature, the moths that were attracted to the hanging lamps also found dinner waiting in the pretty lavender petals.