Saturday, January 30, 2010

Buona Notte

Yesterday was the last day of work with the Forest Service for Doug and me, twas my birthday, and the night of our Festa Buon Viaggo. Over 100 guests, and more than 100 hugs.  It was a great night for us, we will remember our friends and this night always.




Doug surprised me with a birthday speech (the only one allowed for the night), and then the band, 
Kevin Selfe and the Tornados really kept things lively. Their sound was perfect for us.

A good friend and longtime colleague of mine also sang a song for me--funny and touching at once.



And the prize for most photogenic goes to our favorite archaeologist couple:


We didn't eat or drink very much there, so we could keep up with hosting, but nevertheless, we were wiped out the next day.  It's a good tired--knowing that what's ahead is packing and flying off to our little Italian paese.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Countdown to Calabria--a different Life

We've got three state-side posts left to go before my blog is actually legitimate--that is, we are actually reporting from Italy!
Our Buon Viaggio party is January 29 and is also the last day of work for both of us.
Doug has been experiencing a flood of memories of our life here in Oregon:
     Choosing our Christmas tree every year and bringing it home on skis:
The Portland Blues Festival--where you listen to fabulous music and donate to charity every year:

                                                        Friends who are dear and never boring:
                                                                              


and Rainshadow Farm, our life for almost 20 years:
There are lots of dogheads in our photos from there.
I'm thinking ahead of how we are going to use our very ingrained work ethic in Italy.  It's gonna have to change, part of the deal is we want to slow down.  However, the earthquakes in Haiti and in Italy keep in mind the need to contribute.  I will never be able just enjoy life without a sense of contribution. There are some sites for the Croce Rossa in Italy.  I found Greenpeace there (I'm interested in the oceans)...but  it will take time to see where the needs are.  Calabria is not Rome.
We have already found a local hiking group.   I heard that the mountain lunches will be an improvement over my American sandwich with an apple stuffed in a pocket. Different mountains, different friends, different sunsets, different life.

Friday, January 15, 2010

House Hunt Italia

Our Visas arrived so we can now honestly say we are on our way!  Yahoo.  After the wave of relief subsided, I began to review the path that led to this unusual decision. But the fun part was to try and recall all the details of our house hunt.  I thought I would document what I remember here because it’s starting to fade…



I don’t know if any of you watch HGTV.  I found it in the past year (AFTER our house hunt in Italy) because when we moved from the farm, we were finally able to try out cable TV.  Mostly it’s junk…and to be honest, if I wasn’t so interested in culture (sociology of) and architecture, I would call HGTV junk too.  But it totally fascinates me.  They even have a program called “House Hunters International” where they feature mostly tropical climes with Americans looking for vacation homes.  I find it intriguing and embarrassing.  I’m intrigued because I love to look inside houses, any houses.  I find it embarrassing when I compare the American attitude to the European.  In short, we are house hogs.  We want huge homes with bedrooms containing bathrooms that MUST have double sinks.  I had no idea so many people share the bathroom to the point that they would need two sinks.  Any items in the house that may hark back to another time are instantly dubbed "outdated" and hopelessly "grandma" and otherwise outre.  This makes me shake my head.  Not just because I like old stuff but because it's so shamefully not "green".  The house hunters on these shows see no connection between their love for the modern and updated with waste.  I love to restore old places but not for the sake of making them say "today",  "modern", and "ungrandma".  What's wrong with history?

In 2007, Doug and I came from the farm, had no cable TV then, and innocently went to Italy to look for a house to spend the rest of our days lovingly fixing up in between our travel adventures.  None of those fancy ideas were in our heads.  We were thinking small and old.



The trip started on the beach in Tropea (Italian language school...that's Doug in the surf) and on week-ends went back north to meet realtors to look at the small and the old.  Our rented house in Tropea was our first initiation to an Italian restoration.











The first stop on the hunt was the centro storico of Scalea.  Scalea is an old town but it is also built up around it to accommodate the yearly August onslaught of Italians from Naples looking for the beach.  One place was charming and very old.  But the ceilings were too short for Doug.
Another was definitely a good option.  It had a lovely view, but needed work and was priced too high considering the work needed.  The other problem was we were wary of Scalea in August.  Crowds are anathema to folks who are used to the outback.




We also went to Santa Maria del Cedro (an adjacent hilltown) to see if we liked some finished apartments there.   They all seemed to lack the stupendous view that we were looking for.  Nothing seemed to grab us. (much to the frustration of our agent, Tony).




Then we came to Santa Domenica Talao and found our niche.  We loved it (as described in our recent posts)





The house was indeed small but we were blown away by the view and by the fact that the terrace was right off the future kitchen, rather than hidden away in an upstairs roof terrace.  We had found our Italian home. 


Note our hopelessly outre old furniture.  If you are interested in the before and after pictures, you can find them on the Scalea Forum.

Friday, January 8, 2010

From Pausa to Passeggiata

I'm hoping this McDonald’s in Florence was just for the tourists.  Doug caught me coming out of it but I only used the restroom---the same use I find for them in the States.



My topic to take my mind off visas this week is an impression I’m getting from blogs and people I know in Italy that there are a lot of differences between locations.  I've heard  that it’s all about the surface appearances in Italy and it’s hard to make Italian friends in the north.  We try to generalize to make sense of things but I think it only makes us more confused.  I haven’t found Italians any more surface oriented than any other people I know--another generalization. In fact, so far I haven’t noticed any status barriers as you might find in the US, but I’ve mostly been in the south.  I worry about changes that may be coming--either in the culture or my perception of it.  Already folks are saying that you have to go south to see the “real Italy” which I take to mean the Italy of the past.  I find that disturbing.  I don’t want the culture I already love to change although I know my current perceptions will change--that's part of the adventure.





I'd like to be able to continue to light a candle in a church for all the souls I miss.  I love doing this because I can be alone and can really feel connected.  Will it all be electric soon?





I don’t want to be able to shop during pausa and I want to be able to sit for hours after passeggiata in a cafe and never be rushed for economic reasons (when I’m in the mood--it takes re-acclimation for me to be ready to sit that long).  These are just some of the things I love that I don’t know how time will change.  I’ve never thought that all change is good.  We humans need to learn to save the richness we have and add to it rather than change everything without a thought... 

Friday, January 1, 2010

Blame it on Cinque Terre



It’s the New Year and we are still waiting for our Visas.  People often ask us why are we moving to Italy and I give them the reasons I mentioned in the First Blog.  But when did the idea reach critical mass?  Blame it on Cinque Terre.  We were doing the usual Venice, Florence, Rome, Tuscany tour in 2005.  It was our first trip to Italy and we were told we absolutely had to see each of these places.  I agreed and we loved it.  Our first afternoon in Venice was magical--but our thoughts remained suitably touristy while we were there. To say the least, we are NOT city people.  Somehow our itinerary that first trip included the Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre.  We couldn't believe how great it was.  Five gorgeous towns without any car traffic that you reach by train.  Not only that, the whole area is linked by hiking trails.




You can see the idea of living here is now in my eyes in this picture.






We even took pictures of signs for land for sale!!


Eventually our love of the sea and mountains and the simple life led us to Calabria, but its origin was that fine weekend in Cinque Terre.

Some facts from Wikipedia on Cinque Terre:
"The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. "The Five Lands" comprises five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Cinque Terre is noted for its beauty. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible "modern" development.
Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach it from the outside. It is a very popular tourist destination.

In 1998 the Italian Ministry for the Environment set up the Protected natural marine area Cinque Terre to protect the natural environment and to promote socio-economical development compatible with the natural landscape of the area.
In 1999 the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre was set up to conserve the ecological balance, protect the landscape, and safeguard the anthropological values of the location".

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