Oct 31, 2009

World Blog Surf Day: Celebrations

Today is World Blog Surf Day, an event that I've done in the past but not today. Expats from all over the world blog about a selected topic (this time around it's about a Favorite Holiday or Celebration), each one linked to the other to create a circle. It's fun, informative and gives you a taste of life around the world...at one sitting. Get a glass of wine, or coffee and enjoy the cultural differences, or similarities.

Why not begin in Turkey with The Skaian Gates and she'll lead you to the next blog. If there's an issue with a link, the list is at the organizer's site on this page at Czech Off the Beaten Path.

Oct 28, 2009

Milan Motorcycle Show 2009

The 67th International Motorcycle Exhibition makes its stop in Milan from November 10 - 15. The first two days are reserved for the Press and Foreign or Local Vendors. The remainder of the week is open to the public. Women enter for free on Friday, November 13.

Along the topic of motorbikes, when we stopped in Borgosesia for one of their festivals, these beauties parked next to A's giant. Remember how I like old things? Well, an old motorbike really hits the spot.

1942 Moto Guzzi Airone

Old Motor Guzzi SeatComfy Old Seat!

Motor Guzzi

Motor Guzzi at Festival

Oct 26, 2009

Milan Celtic Festival October 2009

This past weekend Milan again hosted the Celtic Festival at the Castello Sfozesco, one week earlier than usual. My impression is that this year's event was better organized and the "camp" that portrays Celtic life from an era long gone was more interesting.

I wish I'd taken my camera this year...silly me, so these are taken with my phone. Look at my post "Another view of Castle Sfozesco" for photos of the Castle itself.

It was the fox, draped over the woman's shoulder that caught my attention.

The young man holding the spear had just finished blowing on a horn used to send messages to others.

It was made of copper with a head of a dragon that led down a long neck, ending with the lips into which a soldier blew. It reminded me of the bow of viking ships.

Because of its dimension he balanced it precariously as he blew and the sound emerged from the open mouth of the dragon.

An example of their arms.

Spears, shields and a typical shelter.

One woman, photo not taken, prepared raw wool, making it into the strands used for weaving. Other than the woven items, skins were often sewn into bags or clothing.

Exhibitions like these remind me that we've "come a long way, baby!"

I still think that although their lives must have been difficult in many ways, they had a peace of mind that came with a simpler way of life and that is something that eludes many of us today.

Oct 23, 2009

Refugio GASB at Monte Fenera Vercelli

"Monte Fenera is dead" said the owner of the Refugio GASB tucked away on a small ledge on the face of the mountain. At the summit, a prominent cross stands out and is visible from my home. It is this cross that first drew me to the mountain to explore the trails that criss cross its face.

Trail 769 leads to the refugio from Fenera San Giulia, a small commune in Borgosesia. The trail was clearly marked although the path itself had not been maintained. Along one very long stretch, the soil was turned up as if a tiller had passed over it and Nadia joked that the "cinghiale" or wild boar had made it perfect for planting potatoes.

The remainder of the trail snaked its way steadily upward, past stairs chiseled out of the rock and finally branched out in two directions where the rock face opened into a huge cave. It was barred off and covered. To the right was a tall iron ladder secured to the rock and leading to the refugio.

I climbed up, making sure my hands were secure and feet solid with every rung but that didn't stop my knees from getter weaker and weaker. The sign at the top, written in large letters said "Watch your head." It really would have been a shame to reach the top, hit your noggin, lose your grip and tumble to the bottom. For sure, more than one's breath would be knocked out.

Once we learned of a safer entrance, Nadia and I were soon enjoying the view of Borgosesia and the valley that stretched towards Alagna. The refugio itself is very rustic, with a little kitchen, dining room and attic area for bunking down. Although there were some who came for the pleasure of a campout, it seems to have been used mostly by archeologists from all over the world and the Milanese students who come to dig in the caves. If you are interested in joining them or reserving a stay at the refugio, call Bruno at 0163 23371 or 334 124 8052.

Before we left, Gianni gave us a tour of their working cave. The entrance had not been barred off soon enough as thieves stole the age old stalagmites and stalagtites.

The major finds such as the remains of a bear and evidence of prehistoric man were taken to Torino. Nadia had just finished telling me there were no bears in the area. Well, not any MORE.

The other thing that is missing is the human element. People don't go hiking there as in the 50's and 60's. Those that lived within the hill itself have moved away and very few visit the chapels hidden within the tall trees.

For some like Gianni and his refugio, it is difficult to see the mountain become so quiet and unused, dead. But it isn't exactly dead...because it is at this very hill where humans barely leave a footprint, that the four-legged and winged friends, such as the rare black stork, find their refuge.

Oct 21, 2009

Language mistakes...

The world is whitewashed today... covered with a light mist and a promise of rain. I may not really like cold weather but one of the pleasures of autumn and winter is sitting by a warm fire. Even without that just being warm and looking out at the thinning trees or plants drooping from the cold, and feeling the difference is nice.

Not too long ago, although it was chilly, it was still beautiful and inviting to go out. It was on that same winding drive where I was so concerned about my tongue, that we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. Al Mortaio.

Here is where not really knowing a language can get you in trouble. I leaned over to A and whispered, "Why on earth would a restaurant call themselves a 'mortuary'?

He laughed and said it wasn't a mortuary which is 'Mortuaria' but appropriately 'Mortaio' as in mortar and pestle.


The food was delicious and I am sure we will head back there again. They are also very close - we don't have to take the scenic drive winding through the hills - and they serve typical piemonte dishes, changing the menu with the seasons.

Their contact info if you are in the area: Loc. Valpiana in Valduggia, 0163 47467. Just remember they are closed on Wednesdays.


Oct 19, 2009

Taking care of the small things

Odd, the things one would think of on a relaxing Sunday drive. Well, relaxing, because I was not driving but I found myself thinking in terms of self preservation as we quickly rounded deep U-curves, one after another, on a very narrow road that skirted the edge of a hill.

And no, I wasn't thinking to stay close to my edge so if there was oncoming traffic there would be room for both cars, but "Keep your tongue behind your teeth!"

As mentioned before, this is chestnut season and even if there are no major festivals in a town, someone could organize a community chestnut roasting event. We didn't stop in nearby Cellio along the roadside to participate in their roasting of chestnuts no doubt found .... everywhere... because we have a tree in our backyard.

Inspired by what we saw, on our return home, I immediately headed out back to pick up yet another bucketful of these delicious nuts. Since I didn't have the proper gloves, I carried a a set of tongs if necessary. Even as I was raking one area, I'd hear a 'plop, thud, plop' as another porcupine of a ball would fall, and then another and another.

I thought... Real smart Bev, no gloves, no hat...but at least my tongue is still safe.

Oct 15, 2009

Romancing the sweet Chestnut

Today the temperature plummeted even though the sun was out a sure sign that autumn is fast turning into winter. I was a shame to stay inside so took a basket and headed outside to gather walnuts and chestnuts from our yard.

The chestnuts were plentiful as the tree is in the backyard. The walnuts however, required some searching which I thought was odd. The ground was flat and the grass trimmed. Then it dawned on me why the little old lady from the next village over was on her daily walks with a bag!

As is the case when something is in season, there is a celebration. There is something very festive about the scent of chestnuts being roasted. Here in the Piemonte area, almost every weekend there is a festival somewhere romancing the chestnut.

In the Piemonte area check out the villages in the Cuneo area, in Sottana, Montaldo Mondovi, Roburent, Roccavione and Benasco this coming weekend on the 18th.

Even if you don't have an open fire and Nat King Cole singing in the background, you can roast them in your oven...How to roast chestnuts in 20 minutes


Oct 14, 2009

Roe Deer (Capriolo) Hunting Italy

In September the hunting season started for roe deer, wild boar, rabbits and who knows what else in Italy. I didn't realize just how many rules exist! Here's the short version of the mind boggling elements to keep in mind (for roe deer).

Characteristics of the Roe Deer
A and I went to scout out a field to see if there were any deer feeding in the early morning hours (they are creatures of habit and will visit the same field regularly). We hardly moved, didn't even speak for an hour (due to their amazing sense of hearing perhaps to compensate for poor vision) ...until a man and three yelping dogs came bounding onto the scene. It was Sunday and jack-rabbit hunting day!!!

Hunters have to be stealthy and catch a buck by surprise. It's only in mating season that this usually alert animal becomes stupid and would practically run up to a hunter)

Roe Deer Hunting Days
September is open only to select hunters who have taken a course regarding the habits of roe deer and they can hunt ONLY on Monday and Thursday. Except for this year, a hunter has to say whether he is hunting a male or female. Only one deer kill is allowed and each hunter has to indicate the days he will be hunting.

October is open season but restricted to Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday (leaving Monday and Thursday for the September select who still have not bagged a deer.)

Hunting Zones Assigned
Not only are hunters restricted to certain days, but also different zones (prairie or mountain). Once assigned to a zone, you might have to claim your area to protect it from being taken by another hunter. (Mountain zones permit only Sunday and Wednesday hunts.)

Historically, there has been a code (fast disappearing) amongst hunters that once an area has been chosen by one, that field is left primarily for him. Now, it is first-come, first-served and signs claiming "Mario is here" are popping up even if Mario has really not yet arrived. It's not unusual for a hunter to set up camp at 2pm to wait for DUSK just to have the spot they want!

Hunting Restrictions at Year End
Restrictions are increased by year-end for hunting in general:
Dogs are no longer allowed on a hunt;
Instead of roaming with arms, hunters are required to remain in one place;
No more females: for deer, knowing the sex of the animal becomes more important during these months as females may be pregnant;
...and the list really does go on.
(Photo from coverbrower.com)

Karl this post is dedicated to you because your passion for life, your love of the sport and your generosity. Hopefully, you will find yourself here someday and go hunting with A.
(Photo from mctoastface.wordpress.com)

Oct 9, 2009

Quick Trip to Gerace, Calabria

This past week we were again on the road. Friends of mine had flown in from San Francisco and we planned to meet up in Matera in the Basilicata region. Yes, with the fickle northern weather, we thought it would be better in the south.

We practically skidded down the slick stones in the heart of the town famous for its Sassi or homes of stone. And then moments later, were scampering back up the hill as quickly and safely as we could on wet stones. Yes, the sky opened up and spewed forth in torrents. So much for our game plan.

But why did it matter so much? Because this was our transportation.

The following photos were taken in the town of Gerace...right before the faucets were opened and we were again drenched. Well, one of us was. My friends V and C both had rain gear with them and I was covered leather that doesn't let in a drop. Only A's clothes changed to the darker colors of "wet".

Sunday morning and walking to church

More turns and twists that lead off to interesting corners.

Local restaurant host waiting for the after church crowd.

I am told that one of the interesting past-times is to sit at the neighboring cafe to watch the fashion show as the congregation parades by. After the walk around town, we were too late for the show.

Admiring the work being done at a very cute corner house...and the juicy looking grapes on the vine. These people had their priorities straight...they had a 'fridge already sitting in the upstairs room, probably holding a stash of beer for when it was break time.

Me and my love affair with doors. There are more door photos, but I'll spare you.

C and V on their last ride out of Calabria and heading for more adventure in Sicily. I believe C has some Italian blood in him because he took to overtaking cars in their own lane with oncoming traffic like he'd done it all his life.

Oct 5, 2009

Caulonia Calabria Italy

Photos of the old town center during a summer visit. More booths, food, people and music!

Caulonia is another old Calabrian village that we visited this summer.

We visited during the popular Tarantella Festival and arrived just before a concert was about to begin. (Kaulonia with a "k" is the Calabresan spelling)

Instead of finding a space in the standing room only piazza, we decided to check out the rest of the festival.

The music was guaranteed to be heard from all over town!

We took a small walk along the streets to check out the food and booths. There were some sit-down places...

...in the open and tucked away in little nooks created by the oddly curving road that led you higher and higher to the main square.

This booth seemed to be very popular. Was it the food? A ordered a plate of one of the local dishes and it came piled HIGH even though he kept saying "basta, basta" (enough).

Or was it the the unusually long loaf of home made bread?...

Or the friendly lady who not only happily served up your food, but gave you a nice eyeful when she leaned over. Now that is service!

I wonder what it would be like to live in one of these old homes and be forced to participate at these summer festivals? No peace and quiet for days, running into the wee hours of the morning and booths set up right outside your door.

I learned there is a community program that is looking into providing housing for immigrants in the three villages I happened to visit: Riace, Badolato and Caulonia. This will hopefully give new life to the old towns that are sadly neglected and also give new opportunities to those starting up a new home in a new culture.

And then some lucky person will have a door like this one.
(You know how much I love, love, love doors in italy)