Nov 30, 2010

The churches around Cellio, Vercelli

A couple years ago we took the dogs for a nice long walk and found ourselves at a church sitting among the trees on top of the hill. I thought I'd take Tala there as there were several trails leading away from the church; the only difference this time, I didn't want to walk there. I had the brilliant idea of driving her to the top and THEN we'd walk around.

Pity I couldn't remember the name of the little church. Nor did I know which road to take. And so began a discovery of churches splattered around Cellio.

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My first stop was Breia, followed the road toward Vignallo and ended up passing Fronto and off the map to Valduggia. A sucker for punishment, (and wisely filling up the tank), I headed back into the maze of narrow asphalt, looking for a church on a hill. Well, I found a lot of them, alright. I passed back through Agua, to Cellio and again past to Carega and Allera. 

The first church I came across at Breia
A close up of the Breia church entrance


Across the street from the church entrance, overlooking the valley

The road leading out the other side of the town.
I decided to NOT go through and parked the car to walk.

View from the other side of town



Town laundry in Breia, once upon a time
View of the church at Cellio from Breia
 Church on the other side of Cellio, near Agua

An Italian two way street in Carega. I did NOT drive through here either.

Church at Carega, just below Cellio.

On the other side of the valley, I headed to Parco Monte Fenera where I knew of another trail, but stopped along the curvy, windy road to explore another snow covered path that I'd seen. It led to nowhere so I turned back, only to come face to face with these curious buggers.

After several hours driving around, looking for the road that would lead to that elusive retreat, I returned home and later asked A where we had gone for that walk. It turns out, if I'd continued through that narrow road past the very first church I'd visited at Breia, I would have found the little chiesa di San Bernardo.

Next time. 


Nov 28, 2010

Italian Banks and their Service

...or the lack of it. Take note of their hours (at least here) and their impeccable customer service.

I have an account that I needed three years ago when I first came here. I use it so little since then that what balance I had was slowly eaten up with bank fees. I kept it open with the thought that I might need it again but I recently decided to close it.  Unlike banks in the States, an open account will go into a debit instead of just being closed and the patron will be responsible for the accumulating fees.

At my first visit, I was encouraged to consider other options before closing and I agreed. After some more thought I again went to the bank to close the account and thus began one of the most unbelievable experiences I've ever had from a service.

Keep in mind bank hours are strange in my area.... 8:25 am to 1:25 then 2:30 to 3:30pm. I went at 2:30 and the teller told me that I needed to come in the morning to close my account. (What!!!!!!!) But then she noticed there was Mr. Fiorello in the office and she sent me around the corner. He looked at my account then talked to the same woman who approached me and again asked why I wanted to close. After briefly explaining she pushed me again to reconsider, then lost patience with me, walked away and spoke over her shoulder that I couldn't close unless I returned the ATM card and Internet key. I'd forgotten the key at home so I said I would return. The gentleman was very helpful, gave me a printout of my account with the necessary info to close it and told me to give it to the next person if he was not in the office when I came back.

Considering the teller had said I needed to come in the morning to close the account, I returned in the morning. The same teller saw me and her first words were "What are you doing here?" What a greeting! I explained I'd returned to close my account with the items they requested and asked if I needed to go around the corner again.

"How would I know?" was the answer. I stepped back in astonishment muttering "She doesn't know". This prompted her to ask me what her colleague had said. When I explained that I was to return etc etc, she raised her voice to say that I needed to come back IN THE AFTERNOON when he was there to finish the job that he had started.

I responded that I couldn't keep coming back to the bank to just close the account. Certainly there was another person who could help me. She became more agitated and insisted that I had to come back to see the same man, which of course made me angry. Speaking a little louder for that, I said that was absurd, that this was a bank and supposedly a service for their clients and that I wanted to speak with someone else. She refused so I repeated my request to close my account, said I was convinced I was doing the right thing and then asked that woman what on earth she had against me. She seemed to have taken personal offense to me taking care of my own business.

She claimed to have nothing against me but was about to dismiss me by calling another patron when another woman came up and for the benefit of both of us, she took care of my request. It is surprising that one can not just close an account, take the balance and leave that chapter behind you. They hold the account, perhaps for people who have checks etc outstanding, but from my account it is obvious that there is absolutely no activity. So I am still waiting to finalize and I am sure they are waiting for the next cycle so they can deduct another month of fees.

Nov 2, 2010

A Glimpse of Montepulciano

At the beginning of October, my good friend Mary came for a short visit. It was too short for me and it seems like ages ago that she was here.

In no particular order, here are photos that cover our mad cap trip around Italy.

Of course, with all the good memories of this place, I had to take Mary there and we again stayed at La Casetta just outside of the town. We walked around town around lunch time which explains the very empty streets.

This must be the Montepulciano landmark, which looks like a cat, bird and human all at once.

Streets like this, without or without crowds are so attractive to me.

The sculptures above the church door that caught my attention as Mary visited the nearby ATM.

I'd be just fine with a teeny, tiny balcony if I had a surround like this but my preference is still for an ancient arch. Yes, yes, I keep on talking about doors.


Nov 1, 2010

There's still room for "first" experiences

It's the Day of the Dead, November 1, and a holiday in Italy. It's gloomy outside, what with the non-stop rain since Saturday afternoon. Tala is working a bone over and I am sitting by the fire thinking about what a weekend it has been. A lot of firsts for me, all packed into two days.

When I opened my eyes early on Saturday morning, a red haze stretched across the sky and urged me to get up and take a photo. It held promise for a beautiful day, but the first program of the day was anything but lovely. We were getting ready to go to the funeral of one of A's good friend's dad. Death can be a difficult thing to handle; watching someone in pain is even harder.

The service was held at La Parrocchiale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo, in the historic center. My first funeral in Italy and the first time I set foot in the Central Church. The most poignant moment for me was at the end of the service -- the pall-bearers lifted the casket on their shoulders and walked solemnly toward the entrance of the church to the strains of Handel's Largo. What transfixed me was the vision of the silhouetted casket moving towards to the dazzling midmorning light.

It was also my first visit to the Borgosesia cemetery, even though I've visted others in Italy. Soon after the casket was in place, the clouds gathered, welled up in tears and cried along with the youngest of the three sons. The rain didn't stop me from taking Tala for her walk, but I drove some distance to a mountain village called Ara and walked through the lonely streets. I imagine these tiny mountain villages have been losing their essence for years now. A rainy day doesn't help matters much.

I discovered a grotto nearby and took Tala for a quick look. She wasn't too fond of the dark recesses and her reluctance to go anywhere near the caves made my hair stand on end. She's still a puppy though and I can't place much faith on her reaction since she runs from large trash cans.

Another first took place when we went to the Bowling center at Serravalle where they also have ping pong tables. I think I found a sport where I am hair's breath better than A. But I imagine that won't last long if I don't find a way to practice.

Another first was going to a film in Borgosesia. Starting time was at 9pm, when I would be winding down for the day and getting ready to sleep. We saw Benvenuti al Sud and if it comes to the States, I recommend it. Beautiful scenery, good comedy and a hilarious play on the generalizations Italians make of the the north and south.