Dec 25, 2009

The Italian Nativity Scene

Merry Christmas to YOU!!

My Italian day is almost spent. It has been a full day of family and food with lots of wine, coffee and more wine and after dinner drinks. One of the best gifts we can give our friends and family is the gift of our time; I think with the exception of one young man, A’s nephew, who was eager to get out on the town with his friends, the rest of us were content to linger for one more drink, one more serving of the canoli.

If the Christmas tree is a common feature in an American Christmas, the Nativity Scene is common in Italy. This photo is not the best presentation of the manger scene, but it was taken on Christmas Eve and there was not much time to go in search of some of the incredibly beautiful and complex models that end up on display.

What is missing?

And then on Christmas Day….

I didn’t know.

Dec 21, 2009

Weather in Piemonte

The skies were bright and clear in the town of Borgosesia, and about 4pm I decided to go to visit my friend who lives near Novara, a town about an hour south from us in Piemonte. As I headed down the autostrada, I kept looking for a place to stop for a photo of a magnificent, florescent orange sun that was sinking below the tree line.

I stopped at the first break in the trees but was too late for the sunset though you can see a small bit of it peeking through the branches. I then turned and noticed ...

...the photos I took of the right side of the road...

 ...were nothing like those on the left side.

Then two minutes further down the road, I ran across that thin line that separates good weather from bad and everything became ghostly shapes looming up along the side of the road.

When I left her house later that night, just as I was reaching the same parking spot as before, I emerged from my thin cotton wool cover to see a slice of a moon along with his starry pals, winking at me from above.

Dec 19, 2009

Short, freezing walk in Borgosesia, Dec 2009

Chiesa di Sant'AntonioShort walk around Borgosesia

It's the day after Borgosesia's first snow fall with a temperature maxing out at 0C. Yet I still wanted to see what the town looked like in its winter clothes.

If you can believe it, after two years here, today is the first time I've walked around town other than the center. There is soooo much I've missed from driving around.

I was enchanted by this gate, its lines highlighted by the layer of snow. The gray and white was so pleasing combined, right along with that etching on the post. Aren't gates related to doors in some way? :-)

Right next to the gate stands this square house, that just happens to be for sale. I keep noticing "For Sale" signs because you can't imagine how much I'd love to have an old home over here.

The public garden, sitting opposite the St. Anthony's Church, and adorned with the somber WW2 memorial (commonly seen all over Italy), was recently transformed into a playground for children, complete with blowup slides and Santa's house.

Tomorrow the squares will again be filled with typical Valsesian crafts and also those made the "old way".

Dec 18, 2009

Details in Old Italian Buildings

I never fail to be amazed at the artistry I see here, sometimes it is showcased in stone, sometimes metal and also pottery and ceramics. It's when this artistry pops up in mundane places like a gutter that I have even more of an appreciation for it.

Very old method of roofing with curved tiles. Long slabs of brick with rounded edges were laid over the wall, with each successive layer over hanging the previous, building out to form a small, sturdy eave.

More architectural details. I think all entrances should have welcoming features like this.

Once again, my fetish with old doorways. These weathered doors are just begging to be refinished and wouldn't I love to do them.


Dec 11, 2009

Dressed In White

Once again the naked trees have decided to don the very pristine look of white. Even the midday sun can't coax them to shed their new look. It's only near the end of the day, ready for dark evening wear that they slowly refresh themselves, allowing their crystalline clothes to fall into a damp mass at their feet. What will they wear tomorrow?

Alpe Raclette Restaurant, Valduggia

The day was bleak and the surrounding forest was bare of its leaves. They now adorned the rolling countryside in a brown and yellow carpet that invites one to frollick and play as children.

Our destination was the Alpe Raclette, a restaurant set deep in the woods. We didn't expect so many cars but there is a reason. The food is excellent.

Even in this out of the way place, A ran into a group he knew and we stood together waiting for the dining room to be opened.

The table was set with bread, different types of dry salami, antipasti and cheese. Instead of a menu, the server brought each dish to our tables for us to choose if we wanted a taste or not. We were so engrossed in conversation that we didn't notice that what seemed to be the 10th plate was still the primi piatti. We had no room for the meat course, which was a shame. At least we had dessert.

As I walked out, I turned to take a photo of the restaurant, something of a sad building, in a rather dull if not depressing setting.

Once again the saying of not judging a book by its cover came to mind. One would never have guessed, without giving them a try that such a well of delicacies and would emerge from their kitchen.

Ristorante Alpe Raclette
Valduggia Loc. Valpiana
Tel: 347/4738664

Milan Artisans Fair Dec 5 - 13

How convenient to have the world at your feet. Well, the world of artisans in all different crafts. The enormous FieroMilano, the same building that hosted the Motor Show, opened its many doors to reveal the work of artists and vendors from around the world.

Two halls were dedicated to the craftsmen from Italy, another to those from other countries in Europe and yet another to the Orient (or "non European" as the US got thrown in there as well.)

Eco Living - House, Home, Recreation

Gives new meaning to sofabed
Modern solution for antique walls.
Eco-friendly boats
More "green" living included baths, doors, windows, insulation, everything a girl could want in a home.

Baubles and Beads, Xmas decor and...

Hundreds of booths were covered with all kinds of jewelry, most more organized than this one, but it is fun to look at and get a feeling of baudy extravagance.
There was a time I hunted for a clock with a European feel.
Winter Prep
The French piano that plays by itself. That's cheating!

International Food!!!! and...

Last three: Names written in Tibetian
Etching on Slate

...My pocketbook leaked and at the end of the day it was difficult navigating the crowded passageways without bumping bags with someone else. Next year I will shamelessly go with a suitcase in tow.

I bought the one on the left and afterwards saw the little red roof. Pity I didn't get both.

Left: I made the cushion on the right of the photo, which only meant I HAD to buy the tablecloth I found in "France".
Right: Spread from India.

Info also in English on the Artisans Fair in Milan


Dec 10, 2009

Days of Celebration

Since coming back from Calabria, the weeks have been laden with holiday festivities. I tried unsuccessfully to instill an appreciation for Thanksgiving but I think I might have to write that off as a flop. Which means next year should be better.

Christmas, being universal if even celebrated in different manners, never fails to find a place in someone's heart, especially if it is a child; all the color, the lights, the buzz that either separates one into Scrooges or Little Tims.

We have another reason to celebrate this year. A's little nephew made his debut a few days ago, the tiniest little bundle I've ever seen and a foot long magnet for grandparents. I think there will be a lot of "oohing" and "aahing" from many households this year.

Dec 5, 2009

Aussie Bar's Humor in Advertising

On my flight to Calabria, I looked through the in-flight magazine and ran across this ad.

I hope their sense of humor tickles you the same way it did me.

Dec 2, 2009

Little Villages that house the Dead

The incredible cemeteries of Italy.

On more than one occasion I've driven past little villages, surrounded by their protective walls, and imposing iron gates. Depending on the moment, I've had thoughts of cold drinks, or steaming hot food placed in front of me; thoughts quickly dispelled as upon closer inspection, those little villages turn out to be ... cemeteries.
(Photo: Cemetery at Siderno Superiore)

Interestingly, the final resting place for Italians is not near or on the village church grounds, and many times not even near the town itself. There is a plot of land set aside for tombs and the like. My recent visit to the cemetery in Roccapietra took place around 5pm, which at this time of year, is right at dusk.

The Roccapietra cemetery stood out in the middle of nowhere, the quiet disturbed only by the screams from a game in progress drifting in spurts on the wind. That didn't bother me, but the last thing I wanted to hear as I stood alone in the failing light, was the muffled and insistent knocking coming from I don't know where!

That didn't deter me, I again visited another two villages of the dead.

This cliff-side promontory, and what I consider prime property, has been set aside to house Gerace's dead in southern Italy.

Caulonia's little villageLittle villages of the dead
Caulonia Cemetery These three are photos of the house like homes for the families of Caulonia, also in southern Italy. The only thing missing are street names.