Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Trek to Trieste

 Piazza Unita d’Italia 

This winter we received a newsletter from Piccola Universita’ Italiana, a language school we have used in the past. We learned that they have a new location in addition to Tropea – in Trieste (Triest-eh). This city of 250,000 people is as far as one can go from where we live. It is in the extreme northeast corner of the republic on the border with Slovenia. Guido thought that taking a few hours of Italian conversation classes would be a good excuse to be tourists in this city.

Trieste is located in the Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Most have heard of Venezia (Venice). This is an area that changed constantly over the centuries like many European locations. The most significant influence was during the 18th and 19th centuries when it was under Austro-Hungarian control or influence. To make a long story short, Trieste became part of Italy in 1954. The Slav and Austrian influence is strong yet today in the architecture, dialect and certainly the cuisine.

This was our longest train holiday to-date. In both directions we did 12 hours of travel changing trains in Roma. From Roma to Trieste, we were on the Frecciargento (Silver Arrow), one of three high speed trains operated by Trenitalia. Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) is the fastest. Our train went as fast as 250 km/h which is about 156 mph. We tried first class this time, but we don’t think it bought us much other than a free newspaper and drink. The food from the bar is for both first and second class, and it was not good.  The seating was slightly more spacious than second class. 

Booking through the school, we had a great deal on a 4 star hotel suite. Our Palace Suite was just a little smaller than our home! The suite was connected to Hotel Continentale and was part of an old palazzo – Palazzo Terni-Dei Rossi. We learned that the building is Secession Style, apparently a bit more opulent than the Neoclassical style that is prevalent in much of the city.   It was constructed around 1906.

The Scene below our Hotel Room
Serbo Orthodox Church of Trieste

The Piazza Unita d’Italia is the main square of the city and is lovely. On the last day we were there, there were school kids having different ball competitions, numerous musicians playing for donations, Asian tourists and the regular business day flow of people. Just a perfect European experience.We were told by many Italians how bella Trieste is. We would add the word elegante. The city we walked about in for 5 days is just spotlessly clean.

Band on the way to the Lungomare and Castello di Guisto

We took a tour of the palazzi, a couple of churches and a couple of castles -- one on foot within the city, and another about 10 km away via autobus. 

Bus tickets are purchased in tabacchi shops and are good for 60 minutes of rides and transfers. We went way over that time limit to get back home and no one ever checked our tickets.

Greco Orthodox Church of Trieste

The Lungomare goes past the Harbor

The Castello di Giusto was built on old Roman ruins in the 1500’s and embellished later. It offers spectacular views of Trieste. When we came out from our tour of the castle, a bunch of kids were playing football amidst the old columns. Can you imagine an American archaeologist or museum curator watching footballs bouncing off their Roman remains?!!

The view from the castle was worth the trip up the hill--can you find our hotel?

Look for this

The Castello Miramare was basically a nice home for a very wealthy couple from Milano. It was finished in 1860, the time of the unification of Italy, but the Trieste area was still Austro-Hungarian at the time.The Castle is maintained by the park system and as such I'm sure the old owners would be horrified to see the far from pristine condition. It takes a lot of financing to keep a castle looking like it's still a home. We have to report that it looks a bit worn and tired--like travelers after a long trip.

Ahhh, we almost forgot a modern asset of Trieste--  Lo Shopping. Our teacher told us there are 1000 shops in the central area where we stayed. We saw and experienced many and Guido even purchased a Milano-made sport coat and shirts-- finally able to find some Italian clothes that fit for those “special occasions”. On the edge of the fancy shopping district, we found more simple places including Chinese shops similar to those here in Calabria.

We really enjoyed our holiday in Trieste and would recommend it to those looking for a bit of a different experience. There are tours available into Slovenia and (in summer) boat tours down to the Croatia coastal towns.

The question we ask ourselves after every trip is “Should we have moved here instead of Santa Domenica”? If we ever changed our minds about living in a large city in Italy, Trieste would surely be better than Napoli, Roma, Milano, Torino, Bari, etc. for us city-phobes. It reminds us of Portland, Oregon in many ways.

Monday, March 31, 2014

At School with Renzi--a visit from the Prime Minister

Carabinieri at the Scalea Middle School secure the area for Renzi's visit-- (where we normally have Italian lessons)

The new, 39 year old Prime Minister of Italy (Presidente del Consiglio), Matteo Renzi, made a visit to Scalea where a number of local activists were planning to  greet him with an anti-mafia rally. It was to be quite a colorful day of speeches, various flags and banners, and quite a bit of waiting around-- all done peacefully and respectfully.

We arrived at 10:30 not knowing how the schedule worked. Renzi arrived within 5 minutes in a small car convoy. We learned later that he flew by helicopter from Napoli and used the landing pad at the now mostly closed hospital in nearby Praia a Mare. He entered the Scuola Media and we, and many others, proceeded to wait 2.5 hours until he came outside for his speech.

The fancy guards are members of the National Police – Carabinieri. If you watched news broadcasts of Obama leaving Rome last week, you would have seen two of these guards saluting the American president has he went to board his plane.

There were a couple dozen mayors from around Calabria attending the indoor meeting with Renzi, but the host city of Scalea was not represented that way because that mayor and 31 others are still in jail after the big mafia sweep last July!

Di and our teacher Carmelina celebrate the nicer surroundings of the elementary school
The day prior to Renzi's visit, our Italian language class was moved into the elementary building so they could clean and set up for the politicians over at the middle school. We were surprised at how much nicer these elementary classrooms were--just next door to the middle school--also a bit mystified by it.

Renzi is an energetic speaker who worked the crowd well with humor. At one point, while a local woman was speaking about local issues, he pulled a camera from his pocket and snapped a photo of some local high school students in the front row. For you foreign readers, Renzi was appointed Prime Minister or Premier just recently as a slight change in the coalition government was made. He had been the Sindico di Firenze – the mayor of Florence. Bringing in a new national leader without an election is a little “foreign” to Americans. Americans may also notice a physical resemblance to John Edwards. We did.

Renzi’s speech was not too different than one from any politician around the world. Some Calabrians  think he just talks too much and has no idea how to change anything for the better. We all know how much coordination (and approval) must be leveraged from the European Union.  Being red-blooded Democrats from America, we do not support the EU austerity measures that have done more harm than good.

Doug managed to survive the long wait by leaning on the platform used by the RAI television camera crew and that is where he saved a spot for the speech. Doug’s estimate is that the crowd was between 3-4000 people. Di was able to move around during it all and noted that the people closest to the stage were enthusiastic with applause for Renzi, while those behind us often didn’t applaud for anything spoken! We guess they came to just listen or didn’t like what they heard.

At one point, speaking to the youth, Renzi said that our area is just beautiful and that it is a shame kids cannot attend school here, then find good jobs in the area. Historically, Calabrese have had to go north for real jobs. Today, going north may not be to Milano or Torino, but Germany where about 60,000 Italians have gone in recent years seeking work. He also said something that reminded Di of Obama's campaign speeches. He said a lot of reforms will depend on Calabrians. Essentially reminding us that politicians can't do it all. The People have to abandon apathy and strive for a better country. Obama said that and nobody remembered. We all expected him to do it all. An old story. Maybe somewhere, sometime, a happy ending to it?

Monday, March 10, 2014

International Day of the Woman 2014

Every Gorgeous Sunset (and rainy day) changes us...slowly, almost imperceptibly
In 2012, I wrote a post on La Festa Della Donna after our Italian Language teacher asked us to read its history. It's actually La Giornata Internazionale Della Donna or the International Day of the Woman--commonly known as the Festa Della Donna in Italy. I did OK on the history (hope so, I had just read it).

What I found interesting re-reading that post, though, was that my entire perspective had changed in two years and that it was living here rather than in the U.S. that caused this change. I am now more conscious of the fact that the your perspective not only changes as the years go by, but that it also changes according to where you live--so slowly you don't realize it unless you have the luxury of reviewing things you wrote in the past--letters, emails, blog posts. I don't the negate the influence of the march of history. It's a combination of time and place.

In 2012 I was worried about women in Italy and today I'm worried about all the women of the world and realize that the women in Italy, even here in old Calabria will be just fine. I know more of them now and I know they will be. World events such as the horror of Syria and the courage of Malala Yousafzai have broadened my perspective on a day like the Festa Della Donna but I think it also matters that I have been watching world events on Euronews, CNN International, and local Italian news stations and talking to Europeans about it rather than only seeing it on CNN in the US or Fox "News". 

Antonella--I love this picture of her at work at the computer next to mimosa
It's also kinda funny how the day turned out. I thought I'd be spending it with only my marito who kindly remembered the traditional mimosa tribute to women and helped me recall that not all men are totally poisoned by testosterone. I ended up spending the day in a more Italian way with other women. These women were working, though. They put their heart into their restaurant-by-the-sea, La Perla del Tirreno and we loved their food and I loved spending a bit of time with them.
Guido's Astice (lobster) I had the other half with rice--molto buono
Antonella's daughter Federica--they insisted on pictures do I look skeptical?

Antonella and Federica made me feel very welcome with the warm southern Italian hospitality that we never take for granted. They invited me to come and help Federica with her English while I get better conversing in Italian. They made me think it could actually work out.

Guido's most tangible Contribution to a lovely day

Another Independent female we know

All in all, life here is always interesting but if you approach it with your eyes always open, it can also be touching in ways you don't expect.


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