Nov 29, 2009

Milan Antique Market

Today was to be the big day...going to the Milan Antique Market. I dragged myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 6am on a Sunday morning and got ready for the hour drive to meet my friends and that is BEFORE getting on the train for another hour to Milan.

It was raining.

The four of them at the Novara station were laughing at me when they saw my umbrella, because it was dry, dry, dry in Novara. They weren't laughing anymore when we reached Milan and the sky was leaking...badly. They gave their business to the illegal vendors standing just inside the exits with an assortment of cheap umbrellas.

After a couple of hours walking in rain, avoiding puddles but realizing I was wearing the wrong type of boots and my feet were slowly draining white from the wet and cold, even I was no longer laughing. My consolation was that I was going to catch my death of a cold born from walking along the 12th century Naviglio Grande, the oldest canal in Milan.

All in all, it was a pleasant trip, with good conversation, excellent food, jokes and the discovery of a new place that I will definitely have to visit again.

The market sets up every last Sunday of the month along the streets just outside of the Pt. Genova FS Metro station. It usually runs from about 9am through until 2:30pm. There is a bit of everything, not just antiques and furniture but I'll admit my enthusiasm was substantially dulled by the weather. By 11am many of the vendors were already packing up for home. Can't blame them.

Venue: On the banks of the Naviglio Grande between Viale Gorizia and Via Valenza
Date: Last Sunday of every month (except July)
Website: www.navigliogrande.mi.it


Nov 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

My friends back home are celebrating a four-day holiday in honor of Thanksgiving. You need four days to digest the amount of food that ends up on the table. I loved the combination of food that is typically seen at this time, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies.

I've never been fond of turkey but it was part and parcel of the whole celebration and it was always fun to watch people try to stuff a large turkey into a small pan to cook in the oven. (Except my vegetarian friends of course).

Well, well, well, since there are not an abundance of turkeys in the local market that I can whizz home to make, I thought I'd "settle" for quail or cornish hen. I didn't really think of what they ate in the Pilgrims time, but guess what....turkey was not on the menu.

According to the History website, wild fowl and venison was on the table which makes a lot of sense. So my little substitution will be just fine. I will still miss that cranberry sauce which is just not found here. (On a side note, neither does sour cream exist in Italy). But I intend to fill the table with a LOT of good stuff which will be my equivalent of saying "Thank you for all the good things life is offering me every single day"


Nov 23, 2009

Encounters with Italians of the Best Kind

I pointed the car towards the mountains and let it go where it wanted. It's true I had a destination in mind, but my theory is that in Italy, the roads all snake back and forth to every village...it's just that one road will take longer than another.

First stop was Siderno Superiore, the medieval village in the hills. I somehow never get tired of these types of towns with their dull, multi-toned grey stone facades and terra cotta tiled roofs. Southern hospitality kicked in again as an old gentleman offered up his balcony that had an awesome view of the valley below and the medieval city nearby. He was full of information, directions, stories about the the town, but adamant against having his photo taken.

Traveling alone has always been rewarding for me. I am more open and people are always curious. The first question is almost always "where are you from?" And with the general love affair most Italians have with America, mostly Hollywood America, the questions continue.

As a result, I've benefited from free tours, free drinks, discounted meals and lots of attention. It's great for a woman's ego. The one encounter that stands out for me, because it took a slightly different bend, is that of an old woman in Gerace, Borgo Maggiore.

I rounded a corner and stopped to admire a particularly attractive piece of real estate when a small woman, with a green head-kerchief pulled across her mouth, approached me. I watched her coming, not realizing that she would stop with her face a mere 3 or 4 inches from mine. Then she dropped her kerchief as she spoke, revealing at least 4 very grey teeth at intervals in her mouth.

It was her eyes that were incredibly young, full of mischief and life. Yes, she asked me the same question followed by the popular, "What are you doing HERE?" She must have loved my answer because she caressed my face. I didn't mind even though I usually have a very large personal bubble. No Hollywood blither for her. She came straight to the point. Do I have religion?

Again she wasn't disappointed with my answer. We believe in the same God, the Son and Spirit but we take different roads on the topic of Mary. Her parting comment, served with a big smile, was that we will see each other on the other side. Somehow I have a feeling she's going to be there.

Nov 20, 2009

Visit to the Olive Mill, Bivongi

Yesterday was my second day picking olives and after all the hot weather that greeted me on my arrival, the temperature dropped as the fog settled in. This is a view of the lowland (at 6:48am when I really should be in a warm bed)

The Picking
The upper portion of the property already had nets spread and we took to beating, combing, picking, whatever was necessary, to get the olives off the branches. I soon found my own rhythm, where I'd vigorously comb the branches, separating clumps like a stylist does hair so as to not miss any. I was allowed to pull and snag its "hair" just as long as it got to slap my face every once in a while!

My third day, today, found me standing out in the early morning hours in a damp grove. the trees and tall grasses were covered in droplets of water due to high humidity from that darn fog and it was, well... cold. I took this photo as we hiked back up to the car...seems unfair that we let her take the bag, but I swear, she insisted!

The Olive Mill
I took a very hurried tour of the facility that turns those dark beauties into delicious oil. (It was just before lunch ... enough said I'm sure).

Customers leave their pickings in these crates, along with their contact info AND the containers that the oil is to be placed in. (No containers means you miss your turn). A lift transports the crate to the bin (on the right) where they pass up a conveyor, through something like a small waterfall and then dunked for a good wash (below left). Leaves get separated and removed in the process.

Clean olives are sucked over to a vat where a blade continually grinds and mashes them into a profumatic mush.

Then the mush gets digested by another machine that separates the oil from whatever water is in it.

The dehydrated mush is still very useful and gets carted off to another factory where another batch of oil is extracted before the remnant is used in the making of bricks.

Absolutely nothing gets wasted!

Nov 18, 2009

Picking Olives as... Soul Food?

Even for sunny Calabria, the light outside seemed too bright for 5:45am, which is when my alarm should have pulled me from my sleep. I glanced over at the clock.

6:15am! I was to meet A’s parents at 6:45 near their olive grove and I needed 20 minutes just driving there!

I rivaled Superman as I shot out of bed, threw on my clothes and lenses, tossed my gloves and tools into the car and hit the road. Thank goodness there was NO ONE on that d*** curvy road and I got there right on time.

For a small town, even on the outskirts, just being a stranger is good enough reason to stare. At least five pairs of eyes focused on the three of us exchanging excited greetings. At the bar, I caught surreptitious glances as the curious listened in to the conversation. And typical of a small town, one man (a complete stranger) paid for our coffees.

The rest of the morning we monkeyed around in the trees and it rained olives. I thought I had an amazing experience last year picking olives, when we fled for cover from a thunderstorm and were holed up in a little aluminum shack with other relatives. Watching them made me realize that happiness doesn’t need expensive props. These people had it in their simple and poor life.

I again felt I’d taken a step into another world when A’s mom broke into song as she worked. She sang her favorites, the music we associate with 50’s Rome, with romance and all things Italian. And I could swear I heard a male voice join in every now and then.

Che fortunata sono!

Nov 17, 2009

Olive Picking-time in Calabria

Today I struck out on my own to head for Calabria where I will be helping pick olives over the next week. Left to my own devices and without the influence of my Italian, I have to admit I committed several counts of heresy.

For my flight, I chose practicality over style and wore my hiking boots instead of something dressier. Even A commented, “Are you going in those?” I at least had the decency to consider switching, but decided to stick to my guns and stand out like a sore thumb but one that walked comfortably.

When I passed through security, I had to remove the boots, my jacket, belt and vest. That’s what happens when you layer for cold weather. I smiled at the officer at the other end of the x-ray machine as I was gathering the pieces. He said, “Ah, finally, someone who is smiling.” Then he quickly added, “You aren’t Italian then, are you?”

The flight was uneventful and so was the transfer to the train station. The car in which I ended up sitting, found me sandwiched between two Calabresan couples who talked past me, above me, around me as if I wasn’t there. I didn’t understand a thing which made me feel like I was traveling to a completely different country... it was wonderful.

Once settled at home, I went in search of lunch and found our regular rotisserie in nearby Caulonia was closed down. I thought, “So much for popping out to eat and returning quickly.” I found myself driving a half hour away to commit my second Italian crime for the day. I ate at McDonalds! Sometimes we just have to have what the Italians call "schifezza" - junk.

Leave the American alone and look what she does!

If the language didn’t fully prove that I was back in the south, as I was driving back on the two (2!) lane road, the car behind me chose to overtake. Undaunted at this vehicle encroaching on his lane, a car in the incoming traffic also chose to overtake and for a brief heart-stopping moment, we were four abreast.

This is the fabulous south.


Nov 16, 2009

The Oldies but Goodies in Motorcycles

Vintage bikes and Wannabees: Triumph, Benelli and Royal Enfield.

There is something exhilarating about being on a motorbike, certainly as a passenger, but more so as the driver. With helmet laws, it's surely not about the wind blowing back your hair (!) although you'll see tons of riders in the south of Italy helmetless!!!!

Old bikes bring back another sense of freedom when I see them. So I was incredibly happy to see a number of the old models on display at the Milan Motorshow, as well as new bikes in retro style. These are the ones that caught my eye.


Left: Triumph Bonneville T100
Right: Triumph Scrambler Avirex
(Private owners - bikes on display)

Trivia: Benjamin Button rode the Silver-blue 650CC Triumph T110

New version of the T100


Two old Benelli bikes

These were behind glass and if you look carefully near the center, you'll see a ghostly reflection that is ME taking the photo.


Royal Enfield retro bikes. The Bullet

Trivia: Benjamin Button rode the 350CC RE Bullet when he was in India.

If I understood the Italian right, even the engineering seems to reflect the old times.

I had been dreaming (dreaming only) of a new bike, the BMW 800 is just my size. However, I am now fairly sure that the next bike I buy will be in the old style. Maybe that Royal Enfield, or the fabulous Guzzi .... or Triumph!!


Nov 12, 2009

ScooterGirls, Inc. - Clothing for 2-wheel Enthusiasts

Get your GoGo On!

Finally, a line of clothing for women that is stylish and protective. You don't even see the protective gear in the elbows, shoulders and back and for me that is a huge plus. I also love the fabrics, some very modern line and others so very wonderfully vintage.

They are ScooterGirls, Inc. based in Los Angeles and they call their line GoGo Gear. They are brand new but have shot onto the scene like a bullet. Click the link above to read about them. Follow their exciting adventure promoting their new line at their blog.

Here is their booth at the Milan Motorshow. The White jacket is reversible, black on the inside for day wear, reflective white for night.
The black and white jacket behind her is also reflective and perfect for night rides. It's fashionable and caught my eye while I was chatting. Imagine what it will do at night!
(Please note these reversible styles do not have protective gear and are solely for high visibility.)

Go to ScooterGirls Gallery to view their armored wear like the ones below.
"Fashion, versatility and performance" in one. I'm excited about this!

Left: Black, shiny, hologram, armored, abrasion-resistant coat
Right: Blue and Brown, armored, abrasion-resistant coat

Here's an invite for you lucky Southern Californians:

Also go to check out the 2010 Vespa, Piaggio, Moto Guzzi and Aprilia models, including the Aprilia RSV4 Superbike.

All accessories in store are 15% off during the event. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served.

Vespa Sherman Oaks
13629 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423


Contact them if you are interested in carrying their line.

67th Motorshow Milan, Two wheels showing off

We went to the Milan Motorshow to see the new models for 2010; Ducati, MV Augusta and Aprilia in particular. I wanted to see Moto Guzzi since I fell in love with one model last year.

Along the way, I noticed that there were many old models on display, and new models in the retro style. I can't tell you how thrilled I am because I love, love, love the old style motorbikes.

It's not all about bikes, but what you wear. See my next post for a fantastic line of women's biker clothing that I liked.

2010 Models

Photos: left: Ducati Multistrada 1200 right: MV Augusta Brutale

Aprilia Dorsoduro Factory

Other Favorites

Moto Morini

Ducati Monster 1100S

Moto Guzzi: Bellagio (I think), Griso 8V Special Edition (this was the model I drooled over last year in hunter green with a brown seat), Plaque of the Falcone 500 which I now want but was not for sale.

All about Valentino

One space was devoted to the MotoGP 2009 winner with a video on his life and career.

Chris Pfeiffer Stuntbike champion was signing posters. Today through the rest of the show, he will be performing in the motorLive area. Check the website calendar for times.

Attention getters

Top Left: Harley Davidson NightRod
Top Right: Piaggo Victory Series
Bottom : Black Way Custom Bikes "Zen"

Stay tuned for the Milan Motorshow clothing booth and vintage bikes.


Nov 7, 2009

The Dark Heart of Italy Review

It's possible to be curious about a book, then be angry because of it, angry AT it, not be able to put it down and at the end, be close to loving it. This was my experience with "The Dark Heart of Italy" by Tobias Jones.

The title alone attracted me, thinking it held stories of the organized crime families of the south. Then the words "This is the book to take on your Italian holiday" (Conde Nast Traveller) caught my eye and killed that idea.

Many of us, myself included, come to Italy because of the beauty of the country and the lifestyle we've all heard about. Most of us come only for a short vacation and leave glowing, armed with tales of the adventure and perhaps a joke or two about Italian bureaucracy the long wait at the Post Office.

What's fine for a vacation can be frustrating for daily life so if this book was to give some insight into the internal workings of the country I love, I wanted to know. And open my eyes it did. At first I was upset because I realized just how much this country is messed up. It starts from above and trickles down to affect everyone one way or another.

And then I found I couldn't leave the book alone, not because Tobias Jones writes candidly and easily about subjects that would otherwise confound me, but because he wrote about things that many coming to Italy would experience, but not know why it was the way it was.

TV, soccer, women, politics ...we never think of the swirling, murky waters passing just under the pretty surfaces. It's hard to say where there is good or bad as parts of the governing bodies are corrupt, and perhaps right up to the very top.

It was disheartening to see my Italy of golden and burnt sienna hues, dotted with greens and backed by blue with such a rotten center. But with that death came a new beginning. Despite all the corruption, the people you and I meet on a daily basis, or on vacation, still have the element that makes Italy beautiful.

It's not only the countryside, the ancient ruins or the beauty of the marble and stone that makes Italy attractive, it's the people and how they live. They make Italy intimate and warm, inviting and irresistible; what Jones calls "street-level humanity". It's the people who build friendships that last a lifetime, who take the time to talk on the side walk, who meet in the same place for years without prior agreement, who are willing to trust a stranger and include her in their community.

And damn, I fall in love with Italy all over again.


Nov 4, 2009

Armed Forces Day in Italy

Today I hung the "green, white and red" from our balcony in honor of the Italian Armed Forces Day. November 4 is traditionally celebrated in memory of the soldiers who died protecting Italy in the First World War. It was on this day in 1918 that the Austrian/Hungarian armies ceased fire and Italians claimed a hard earned victory.

Although November 4 was set aside to pay homage to those who sacrificed their lives over 90 years ago, I think Italy will be thinking of the young men and women who are NOW putting their lives on the line...and not even to protect their own country. No doubt many countries echo this same thought.

Worth 1000 - Lakeside Hotel at Lake Como

Lakeside at Lago Como