Friday, December 21, 2012

Salerno--City of Lights

Before you go all Paris on me, be advised that is the City of Light, singular, referring to enlightenment, not Christmas lights.
Our Italian language teacher told us about the bellisima Christmas lighting that the city of Salerno does each year.  Our plan was to arrive there around 10:30, shop all morning, do lunch, then visit those shops that might be open during the siesta period. We wanted to see the lights at dusk just before our train left to go home.

Salerno, with a population of about 138,000 struck us as a good place to try some shopping for goods that we cannot get in Calabria--and do it by train in one day.  Yes, Napoli and Roma are probably better for this purpose, but those cities are too large and crazy for a one-day trip by country denizens.

It was a mostly sunny day, but it was around 8C with a 32 kph steady wind.  Very cold!  Unlike small shops in our area, these were heated and the larger department stores as well as some smaller entrepreneur types remained open during pausa--so we got some shopping done in warm places.

We also used the Temple Bar near the stazione two times, for an hour each time to sit, warm-up and relax. 

As you see, Salerno does go all-out for Christmas lighting.  Unfortunately the famous luminarie that hang over the streets of the historic district were never lighted before we caught our return train home. 

The train station is poor for such a large city – no benches or seats at all, nor restrooms.

The return train was 50 minutes late, but it was comfortable and warm all the way to Scalea. We had our first “seat fight”. We checked our ticket twice, once with the conductor (who assured us we had the right seats but left us to fight for them ourselves). I guess people just sit where they want and hope nobody will insist. We were cold and tired so there was no way we were going to sit on the luggage rack, not Di at any rate. The second time we showed the interlopers our tickets, they finally gave us our seats. 

The historic area and the shopping area of Salerno are very nice and the lungomare zone around the bay is lovely. All are best enjoyed on a slightly warmer day and we may return!  The district starts at the train station and two streets go about ½ mile north into Centro Storico--all parallel to the sea. It reminds Doug of Reggio Calabria with the shopping area adjacent to the shoreline. 

Oh, the shopping you ask? We always like to buy some things for ourselves with both of us together. We did okay and Doug got to use his new, upgraded Canon 600D camera--his big gift this year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Alberi di Natale in Calabria

Calabria just isn't known for a commercialized type of Christmas--as we have previously explained, traditionally it's a day of food and family--but these things have a way of creeping in slowly. By the end of November, most shops had a  variety of Christmas goods for sale. This is becoming more prominent each year. There is quite a price range, from €10 table top trees to beauties costing hundreds of euro. We discovered the fancy trees when we went to our favorite nursery-farm store for a plant--the nicest trees we have seen so far. Each was over €100 bare, then there are the light strings and those ornaments that cost €2-3 each--so one can spend some funds.

We could make room for a large tree, but do not feel the need, and storage for 11 months would be an issue. We replaced last year’s cheap albero di natale with this slightly bigger one--mostly we wanted more lights.  The lights twinkle out and down to the street below.  Che bello!

More and more people seem to put up light displays at their shops and homes each year. A funny thing in Scalea--two shops have mechanical santas that have motion detectors and when you pass on the sidewalk, they erupt with "Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!" (in English) and other carols. I noticed today that the larger Santa looks like Chubby Checker doing the twist:)

I enjoyed taking these cheery pictures of the Alberi di Natale

Di (in the distant mists of time) used to work in a plant nursery that kept open in winter selling decorated faux Christmas Trees. She had fun deciding what the theme of each tree would be. It looks like the folks who created the ones above had similar creative bursts. For those who wish to decide their theme at home you can of course purchase the basics:

Some Christmas articles began appearing in stores early in November, but we didn’t notice right off.

What got our attention more that the holidays are approaching was the boys playing with fire crackers.  Alfonso showed me his (2 photos below). In America, Italians are known as the finest firework makers, but here the kids are forced to use poppers made in China. The larger mortars their dads light-off at Christmas and New Years may be Italian made? They would be professional grade in the US...

On Christmas day, we will be sharing a traditional English Christmas Dinner in Old Scalea and I plan to capture images our hosts Clive and Kathryn at work, and with their guests.

Buon Natale, Guido

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


This is my favorite picture of Vincie and me in Italy at the beach at Praia a Mare. We had many to choose from, but this one was taken on the day we experienced our first dose of Italian bureaucracy and Vince experienced his first taste of retrieving sticks out of surf. It soon became a regular romp for him and us--here he is with a stick in Scalea:

This is not a "happy" post. Tears will come. Mine and Guido's anyway. This is also not an entirely sad post. Vincie had a very very long (17 years-119 dog years) very very happy life and he gave us many more laughs than troubles. He was almost never sick albeit a bit accident prone when a pup. He got his jaw kicked by an awful horse and nearly lost some vital parts jumping a fence--but survived to live a life other dogs can only dream about. He died last night while on a walk with his "Dad". His great old heart finally gave out.

Vincie's last photo on his last day on this Earth
He truly loved sitting in all of his cars and trucks
Guido's list of highlights of Vince's life in Italy (He did all of this while a centenarian in dog years):

  • Flew 7,000 miles and across the Atlantic,
  • Stayed in many 4-star hotels from Liguria to Sicily,
  • Tinkled on 800 year old streets,
  • Swam in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and
  • Ran free in the Parco Nazionale del Pollino

When he struck his cross-legged pose, the cameras always came out--Sooo cute!

Vince had already lived a full life before coming to Italy. He spent many hours romping free through the National Forests of Oregon and many other places.
He spent most of his life outdoors on the farm and in the woods but always spent nights inside cozy and warm with his family. He really didn't have very many faults. He was polite and quiet and never barked (except when he treed a porcupine or some other "invader"). He did have the unfortunate habit of never learning when it came to skunks but then nobody's perfect...

Vince also had his responsible side. 
His cats loved him and he put up with them for us.

Vincie looked like our beavers when swimming in the farm ponds

Goodbye to our dear and loving friend.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Seasonal Comparisons

Almost three years of the four stagione (seasons) have passed by since we moved to Italy. We have data for two years now. A “weather year” or “water year” is what scientists and farmers use, and it refers to October 1 to September 31 of each year. Thus, our data covers this past year (2011-12) and a comparison with year 2010-11. Comparisons of data are fun, but we thought we'd also compare lives here as the seasons pass with our life as it was in Oregon. 
But first, the data--
Generally, this year was warmer and dryer. Guido thought it hot and humid all summer and that the heat lasted too long.  Di, of course,  likes it hot although some days got to her too--global warming yahoo!  
This fall has been pleasant, but the data shows the two fall seasons were nearly equal. Just a little more rain last October. The storms of 2012 were wilder, including a storm on 4 April with wind gusts here to 75mph/121kph. The beauty of our area is one day it can rain and the next day, people are sunning on the beach, like Tuesday when we took Vince for a walk there.

Santa Domenica Talao, Italy 2010/11

Santa Domenica Talao, Italy 2011/12

Maupin, Oregon
of  Remembrance

Winter Temps

Dec  Ave Low:   7C/44.5F
Dec Ave Low:   9C/48F
Much colder
       Ave High: 15C/59F
          Lowest: -2C/28F
      Ave High: 16C/60F
         Lowest:  4C/39F
Could get to -15 F

Jan  Ave Low:    8C/46F

Jan Ave Low:   5C/41F
Much more snow - up to a meter on the ground
       Ave High: 17C/62F
          Lowest:  4C/39F

Feb  Ave Low:7C/44.5F
       Ave High:15C/59F
         Lowest: 1C/34F
      Ave High: 15C/59F
         Lowest:  0C/32F

Feb Ave Low:   4C/39F
      Ave High: 12C/53.5F
         Lowest: -1C/30F
And we had a 1/4 mile driveway to keep clear!


Usually about 12 inches
 Nov wettest 
 October wettest

Summer Temps

 July Ave High: 28C/82F
 July  Ave High: 29C/84F 
Could get up to 38C/100F

         Highest: 34C/93F
           Highest: 36C/97F
But with cool nights
and low humidity
 Aug Ave High: 28C/82F
 Aug  Ave High: 31C/88F
but many more
          Highest: 31C/88F
          Highest: 38C/100F

Days of Sunshine

264.5 days total
295 days total
No contest

Much less sun in winter

Most Gloomy Month

January-only 13.5 
sunny days
April-only 17.5
sunny days
Nov Dec Jan

How does our life in l'estate compare with our life in Oregon? We spend much more time in our swimwear and Di's swimwear has gotten more European (i.e. 2 piece). Parties and get-togethers are much more frequent--partly because of the time freed up by retirement and partly because for lots of our friends, it's a way of life in the summer. We are still working on staying up late as it's just not in our genes. Our Italian really is getting better so we are able to contemplate socializing without sign language. Don't miss anything about Oregon summers except friends we left behind... 
Who wouldn't miss people willing to pose looking like this?
This was taken in our front yard at Rainshadow
We have a friend who loves to have barbecues at his villa
I love his grilled peppers
We loved fall in Oregon and l'autunno in Italy is very similar. Clear air, beautiful foliage colors in the mountains plus fewer tourists make it great time for traveling around. I miss Thankgiving at our friend's house. It was magical. You can see below that I wanted to create some of that romance at our Italian Thanksgiving in 2010..but unlike Merrianne, we didn't think we could manage it every year.

Did we ever light the candles? I don't remember now
I'm gonna say right now that I miss cross-country skiing right out our "back door". We can do it here, but haven't gotten organized yet. It may be a great goal for this winter--the skis look lonely in the basement. Our winters in Italy are very different. They are more mild and we go to the sea, not the mountains. We meet people at our favorite bar and spend time on household things we don't have time for during traveling and socializing season. Besides skiing, this year we plan to get our community involvement plan organized.


This little skiff of snow made for an unusual Calabrian Christmas

Along with fall, la primavera is similar to our Oregon spring. Our life is a bit different--we still seek to hike in the mountains, but we aren't trying to get an acre of vegetables going and otherwise working our butts off outdoors, so we tend to try to stay outside. We get the same effect without the dirt and fatigue. We also start to sit in the sun much earlier. The terrace is great in the early spring, every morning feels fresh, the way spring is supposed to be.

Monte Caccia on the most perfect of days--Vincie's last big hike
The Columbia River Highway in the Beautiful Columbia River Gorge

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Tactical Error, A Fine Result

Leaving the Sun to Enjoy the Day?
There is still good weather to be had this time of year in Calabria. Last weekend we decided to enjoy it and explore a new area. We headed for Lago Sirino on the recommendation of friends. We envisioned lunch at the lake, you know the drill. Doug realized early on that we may have made a tactical error for achieving the goal of enjoying our sunny weather. Clouds dead ahead. Check out the captions on the following photos to see how it turned out. 

Speaking of turning out, Election 2012 was of great interest here in Italy. Calabria is a conservative area, but Obama was their guy---and they assumed he was our guy--which he is--he's our Pres. We wish him and US the very best in the next round of "fun" ahead.

The town of Rivello basking in the sun enticed us on a side trip
Because we live in a hilltown, we laughed at these daunting steps. In fact, they were child's play for our seasoned calves. The treads were an even six inches or so, not from 6 inches to a foot and a half like ours.

In general, Rivello was small and quiet like our town, but I did talk to many inhabitants who seemed to speak Italian easily. We also met some Italian tourists once we finished the climb to the Piazza.
An interesting restored public courtyard. Liked the paving stones. Found the fossil of a fern--(see below)

Rivello's Piazza
The view from the Rivello Piazza with Lauria in distance
Lake Sirino
When we finally made it to Lake Sirino, it was cold and blowing, the restaurant was open but not serving yet, they didn't offer to seat us the way most places do when you are early, so we took the hint and decided to eat near Lauria at one of our favorite restaurants in Pecorone. The friendly proprietor made us feel good about our choice and our day. It was a good day of speaking Italian to new people, seeing new sights, and having a satisfying Italian meal. What more to ask of a day?

We turned back towards the glow in the western sky...


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